Spirit, do you copy?

According to &to=http://www.newsday.com' target=_blank>NewsDay America's intrepid Spirit spacecraft, just beginning its roaming mission on Mars' dusty red surface, has stopped communicating properly with Earth, space scientists said yesterday. Engineers were trying to determine if the problem will disable the Rover just as it was starting its job in earnest and just before its twin is to arrive on the opposite side of the planet. "We now know that we have had a very serious anomaly on the vehicle," Peter Theisinger, the Rover project manager, told reporters yesterday at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. He said the team's ability to determine what happened has been limited by an inability to receive telemetry data from the six-wheeled Rover. The successful landing on Mars was a "tremendous accomplishment" by NASA scientists, he said. "That said, from NASA's standpoint, it would be a huge disappointment to have done all that, and then we don't get back all the data we had hoped to get." He said the communication failure shows why a manned mission is necessary. "In space, robots are fine, as long as they work," Walker said. "Human exploration allows you to do problem solving on the spot, rather than from tens of millions of miles away."

BBC &to=http://news.bbc.co.uk' target=_blank>BBC reports that Engineers are working on two theories to explain Spirit's problems. One is a corruption of the flight software. The second is corruption of computer memory. Either could leave Spirit's power supply healthy but still allow adequate time for recovering control of the rover. Nasa is using a full-scale engineering model at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California to work through scenarios and possible solutions. Spirit landed on Mars on 3 January, for a planned three-month mission to explore the geological history of the planet. Its aim was to tour Gusev Crater, studying its rocks and soil for signs of water, past or present.

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