Slashdot stories can be listened to in audio form via an RSS feed, as read by our own robotic overlord.

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

Mars Probe Probably Lost Forever 167

Posted by kdawson
from the alas-poor-MGS dept.
David Shiga writes, "NASA's silent Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) spacecraft is likely lost forever. The space agency attempted to take a picture of the 10-year-old spacecraft using the newer Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, but did not detect it, either because its orbit has shifted since last contact, or because it isn't reflecting enough sunlight to be visible. NASA has now ordered its Opportunity rover to listen from the planet's surface for MGS's radio beacon. If that fails, the agency may call on the European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft to join the search. But MGS may already have run out of power and NASA officials are not optimistic about recovering it."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Mars Probe Probably Lost Forever

Comments Filter:
  • Missing? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @09:59PM (#16944344)
    Did they check Mars? I would bet that it is probably there.
  • by firehawk2k (310855) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @09:59PM (#16944352)
    Was that the one crushed by the Decepticons? I don't think we'll be recovering it anytime soon.
  • by mhore (582354) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @10:00PM (#16944356)
    ...it was obviously captured by aliens.
  • by hedgemage (934558) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @10:04PM (#16944398)
    You got to admit, we've been having some fantastic luck with some of the recent Mars missions. Unfortunately, the luck has either been fantasticly good or fantasticly bad.
    We just have to keep reminding ourselves that sending something millions of miles through space to a speck of rock and have it function so well for so long is an amazing achievement in and of itsself.
    • by jfruhlinger (470035) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @10:44PM (#16944748) Homepage
      The Global Surveyor probe completed its primary mission in 2001 and was in an "extended mission" phase. While its extended mission was to last until 2008, it was already essentially on bonus time. This is definitely still in the good luck category.
      • by dsci (658278) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @11:35PM (#16945122) Homepage
        This is definitely still in the good luck category.

        Exactly. People can say what they want about NASA | JPL, but the bottom line is they put up some good stuff much of the time. What really got my eye was how they just 'asked' Opportunity to listen for it. That is, that those things are so dynamic in what they do and can be 'asked' to do simply amazes me.

        Who knew years ago when Opportunity (also past expected mission life, right?) was designed that it would be on-the-fly tasked to listen for another spacecraft's signal. That it was designed in this way is a testament to well planned engineering. IMO.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by O.W.M (884392)
          What really got my eye was how they just 'asked' Opportunity to listen for it. That is, that those things are so dynamic in what they do and can be 'asked' to do simply amazes me.

          Well, they did say please...
        • That is, that those things are so dynamic in what they do and can be 'asked' to do simply amazes me.

          Wasn't the software for these rovers uploaded while they were travelling to Mars? They certainly have broadcast and reception hardware (to communicate ofcourse) so how hard would it be to send a patch or instructions to listen to certain frequencies (on which the Opportunity is broadcasting)? Right now I'm "asking" my monitor to display characters and send data to another server...

          • by NateTech (50881)
            You'd better go read up on RF Engineering -- that simple "broadcast and reception hardware" is a lot more complex than you would like to believe.

            You don't just "ask" a high-performance radio to receive on a specific frequency or modulation type. They have to be designed to be there doing that in the first place. And those radios work or the datalink that allows the upload of code changes simply wouldn't be there. They were designed, tested and done -- long before launch.

            An example: Uploading code into yo
        • It's the 21st century and you're amazed that computers have rewriteable code?

          While it doesn't say whether they rewrote a module to do this or simply set Opportunity to listen on a particular frequency (they don't even have to tell it what it's looking for - if it picks up a relatively strong signal, it's going to be the MGS) - it'd be more astounding if they hadn't built in flexibility in this day and age.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by nagaicho (143014)

          Who knew years ago when Opportunity (also past expected mission life, right?) was designed that it would be on-the-fly tasked to listen for another spacecraft's signal. That it was designed in this way is a testament to well planned engineering. IMO.

          Luckily one of the engineers realised that if Opportunity was to bounce an inverse-polarity tachyon beam through the fifth phase of a quantum singularity, it might be possible to convert Opportunity's deflector dish into a scanning-tunnelling pulse wave detector

          • by amliebsch (724858)
            It's like putting too much air in a balloon!
            • by cloricus (691063)
              Careful now you wouldn't want a feed back loop that caused a cascading energy pulse that would cause the main power source to explode in just over five minutes!
        • by cplusplus (782679)
          Opportunity (also past expected mission life, right?)
          Yep! By about 914 days!
    • by quanticle (843097) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @10:47PM (#16944774) Homepage

      Actually, the Mars Global Surveyor finished its mission, and had long outlasted its original mission scope when the failure occurred. While unfortunate, this failure isn't wholly unanticipated as the craft was "out of warranty" as it were.

    • by be-fan (61476) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @01:01AM (#16945726)
      What I'm incredibly impressed over is the fact that they're mobilizing other space craft in the area to look for the missing probe. The fact that NASA can get spacecraft designed for complete autonomy in extreme environments, and designed years apart by different groups at that, to cooperate with each other all while tens of millions of miles from the closest human, well, that's a pretty impressive bit of engineering.
    • by MtViewGuy (197597)
      We're talking a space probe that has no fuel left for orbital manuevers and probably the on-board electronics running WAY beyond its original operational life. It's amazing Mars Global Surveyor has lasted this long....
  • by ectotherm (842918) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @10:05PM (#16944416)
    A pink rabbit beating a large bass drum was just spotted in the vicinity of Mars. Communications with the Mars Probe are expected to resume momentarily... ;)
  • by Bob54321 (911744) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @10:11PM (#16944464)
    "either because its orbit has shifted since last contact, or because it isn't reflecting enough sunlight to be visible"

    So either it wasn't there or it was there but they didn't see it. I think that has to pretty safe to say they have limited the problem down considerably.
  • Plague (Score:4, Funny)

    by PHAEDRU5 (213667) <(instascreed) (at) (gmail.com)> on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @10:13PM (#16944478) Homepage
    Why are humans, a plague on this planet, trying to gain dominion over the others?

    If God had meant us to fly, he'd have given us rocket engines, day one.

    (Yes, tongue is firmly in cheek.)
    • by Chmcginn (201645)
      If God had meant us to come down out of the trees, he would have taken away our prehensile toes!
      • Re:Plague (Score:5, Informative)

        by Xzzy (111297) <sether @ t r u 7 h . o rg> on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @10:55PM (#16944834) Homepage
        If he hadn't intended us to look at porn, he wouldn't have given us opposable thumbs.
        • Re:Plague (Score:4, Funny)

          by Plutonite (999141) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @11:49PM (#16945228)
          If he hadn't intended you nitwits to be seen, he would have given me mod points.
        • by TeXMaster (593524)
          Actually, if he hadn't intended us to look at porn, he wouldn't have given us eyes.

          If you're talking about masturbation, on the other hand, other questions are raised. For example, women don't need thumbs to masturbate. So, if didn't have opposable thumbs, would that mean that women could masturbate but men couldn't?

          And of course you have to consider that the thumb is not strictly necessary for masturbation (you could use all of your others fingers for a grip). And considering that even animals without hand

    • Re:Plague (Score:5, Funny)

      by Blakey Rat (99501) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @11:01PM (#16944882)
      (Time Bandits)

      Evil: If I were creating the world I wouldn't mess about with butterflies and daffodils. I would have started with lasers, eight o'clock, Day One!
      [zaps one of his minions accidentally, minion screams]
      Evil: Sorry.
    • by Dunbal (464142)
      If God had meant us to fly, he'd have given us rocket engines, day one.

            Light one of your farts on fire, and tell me that's not a rocket engine...10-9-8-7...
  • by Anonymous Coward
    It's probably in an unknown orbit. Chances are as our space travel technology improves and we start to colonize Mars, it will turn up someday. Either it will be detected in orbit by one of our spacecraft, or its orbit will decay and its remains will be found on the Martian surface as research and civilization there expands. It might be a few hundred years, but eventually most of what we sent there could be found.

    Either that or it will appear in a future episode, with..certain...alien mutations.
  • Many people joke, somewhat grimly, about the casualty rate for Mars missions. In this case we have a serious lesson to draw from what is happening. Having several other probes active at the same time gives us options we otherwise would not have.

    If Mars Global Surveyor had been out there all alone, mission controllers would have little choice other than waiting for it to somehow recover and renew contact on its own. Having Spirit, Opportunity, the Mars Reconaissance Orbiter, Mars Odyssey, and Mars Express al
  • by Schemat1c (464768) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @10:25PM (#16944618) Homepage
    Continual probing of a heavenly body for almost 10 years? Beats my record by a long shot.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    probably its software was written in java.
  • Calling Europen Space Agency? Didn't those guys lost their own rover [wikipedia.org] too?
    • by Aerovoid (590728)
      If you read your own link, you will have noticed that it was made by a group of British academics and with the help of a couple UK universities. And not by the ESA, it just hitched a ride on the Mars Express. Not unlike the Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn, where the Huygens Probe(ESA) hitched a ride with the Cassini probe(NASA). Also the Beagle 2 was not a rover, just a lander. A bit nit picky I know, but I still...
  • by posterlogo (943853) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @10:36PM (#16944698)
    SO many posts here about the curse of Mars or whatever, but you have to remember Surveyer was on the 10th year of its 2 year mission!! It exceeded its specs and performed beautifully. It's sad to lose an orbiter, but at this point, it shouldn't be considered a failed mission.
  • Dang... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Goodnight, sweet prince.
  • Time to update... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DangerTenor (104151) <pmhesse2 AT geminisecurity DOT com> on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @10:49PM (#16944784) Homepage
    It might be time to update the Mars Scorecard [anl.gov].... although we got some good work out of the MGS, it might be time to mark this one up for the green guys.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @11:29PM (#16945092)
      It might be time to update the Mars Scorecard.... although we got some good work out of the MGS, it might be time to mark this one up for the green guys.


      You know, I mostly stopped commenting (or even reading) space related stories on /. long ago, because the commenters and moderators don't know jack shit about space or space exploration.

      You just got added to the wrong column of that scorecard.

      Mars Global Surveyor was a huge win in Earth's column. The spacecraft returned friggen superb results, for far longer than we expected. We didn't get "some good work out of MGS," we got vast amounts of good work out of it.

      God damn, I wish Slashdot quit posting space related stories.
      • by kalidasa (577403)
        Lighten up. Everybody understands what a success Mars Global Surveyor has been, but let's face it: Mars is a very hostile environment, and its distance makes it very hard to debug a problem when it occurs. I think everybody enjoys the mythology of attributing spacecraft failures which can't be properly diagnosed from this distance to "hostile Martian action". It gives the old Martian mythology of Lowell, Welles, Welles, and Chuck Jones a nice, amusing, non-threatening afterlife. At it's a lot funnier to hea
  • Perhaps if we ever colonize Mars, someone will stumble upon its wreckage.
  • My mom can pick it up after she gets me from soccer practice.
  • by QuantumRiff (120817) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @11:04PM (#16944906)
    NASA was trying to cut costs by using off the shelf components. Unfortunately, UPS does not deliver replacement batteries to their current location ;)
  • Wow.... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dtdns (559328)
    And I thought losing SSH access to my BSD server 3000 miles away was a tough break. I can't even imagine what kind of inventive hacks would be needed to restore a lost probe orbiting another planet.
  • Lost in Space (Score:2, Insightful)

    by majoritywhip (829722)
    Forever? Is the submitter implying that humans will Never make it to Mars?
  • by surfdaddy (930829) on Tuesday November 21, 2006 @11:28PM (#16945076)
    for a while longer. The two spacecraft, launched in the mid 1970's, are almost 30 years old. And they're still working, 9 billion miles away. They're well beyond the orbit of Pluto. Now that's impressive. Not to take away from Mars Global Surveyor or the twin rovers.
    • by necro81 (917438)
      I agree - that those craft are still even alive is a wonder. Still, considering how old they are, how far away, and how run down their power sources are, does NASA still get anything from them? Are they actually still working in any appreciable way?

      Curious to know (not just nit-picking semantics), I decided to go to the JPL mission page [nasa.gov]. Voyager 1 passed the 100 AU mark this summer, that's about 12 light-hours. Although it's signal is very weak, we can still talk to it a bit. According to this blurb [nasa.gov]
      • by cyclone96 (129449) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @12:47AM (#16945620)
        does NASA still get anything from them?

        Absolutely. Voyagers 1 and 2 are still doing significant work, since they are so distant and still functioning. They have begun to encounter the outer reaches of the solar system, where the influence of the Sun ends and interstellar space begins. NASA believes they recently crossed the termination shock and may be approaching the Heliopause. More here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heliopause [wikipedia.org]

        It's going to be a very, very, very long time before another probe gets out as far as the Voyagers are (if Pluto Express lasts that long, at least 20 years). Voyager gets a fairly decent chunk of Deep Space Network tracking time because of the importance of what it is doing.

        The oldest satellites still functioning are Pioneers 6,7, and 8, which are all around 40 years old and still ticking. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pioneer_6,_7,_8_and_9 [wikipedia.org]. They don't get tracked much, however, because the science they are returning has been surpassed by other probes. They've basically become an experiment in how long satellites can still function.
    • by darkmeridian (119044) <william...chuang@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @12:35AM (#16945544) Homepage
      That's because Voyager is nuclear powered. Good luck getting the masses to approve shooting up another nuclear power package.
      • by DerekLyons (302214) <(fairwater) (at) (gmail.com)> on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @02:45AM (#16946292) Homepage
        That's because Voyager is nuclear powered. Good luck getting the masses to approve shooting up another nuclear power package.

        That's the prevalent meme - but the reality is that space based nuclear power has gotten steadily less controversial. The Mars Science Laboratory Rover [nasa.gov] will almost certainly be nuclear powered - and the proposal to do so has drawn nary a peep.
      • by MtViewGuy (197597) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @10:11AM (#16950218)
        Technically, the Voyager probes use radioisotope thermoelectric generators, which can produce 80% of its full-rated power even 20 years after initial assembly of power generator. It's likely that the Voyager probes will continue to work for at least another 30 years or more!

        It will be very interesting to see how long Cassini--which is powered by RTG's--continue to run orbiting Saturn.
        • Not really, in all likelihood. Cassini's lifetime is more likely to be limited by its supply of reaction mass for maneuvering or the speed at which its reaction wheels degrade. The RTG's life expectancy is something like 20+ years, if I recall right from when I asked about this a month ago during the extended mission planning at JPL. If we make it sufficiently far that the RTG is a limiting factor on the mission, I'll be shocked. Pleasantly so, but shocked.
          Also, remember that the rate at which the RTGs
  • Okay, trying to take pictures of Beagle 2 was useful, because it could tell us whether the panels unfolded and give hints of the failure mode for consideration in future designs.

    But what's the point of trying to take pictures of an orbiting craft? What useful data will we glean, if successful, that would either help restore MGS to functionality or inform future activity?
    • by lindsley (194412) on Wednesday November 22, 2006 @01:08AM (#16945758)

      Same thing. First, verify it's where it's supposed to be. Second, if the resolution is good enough (and they weren't sure it would be) see if it seems to be oriented correctly.

      If it's not where it's supposed to be, then there's a partial explanation of why it's not responding -- it's off course -- and also tells them their options are limited to setting it straight again. If it is, but it's oriented incorrectly, then the batteries are not getting recharged and you focus on getting it oriented correctly so it can get power again. If it is present, oriented correctly, and still not responding, then you've got a different set of options.

      More information can only help.

  • Mars Anti Satellite Command (MASC) reports another successful test of the new anti-satellite interceptor.

  • From the Associated Pres news:

    "We have gathered information from inside NASA, that during the last minutes of contacts the Mars Global Surveyor sent out an encrypted message. After a grueling three hours trying to decrypt the message, top scientists at NASA was startled to see what appears to be a message from semi-intelligent beings. It reads 'How are you gentlemen!! All your base are belong to us.' Then the MGS went silent.
    Governments of the United States and Western Europe have moved to take of ev
  • Which would account for not seeing it where expected...
  • Snarbledorf and Veedlemore decided to use it to refuel their spacecraft, which i'm currently on.. now let me take this probe out from where the sun don't shine.
  • Cheers to great engineers at NASA.
  • If in fact it has been up for ten years, that is a pretty good lifespan for an orbiter going around one of the rocky planets.

    What's really amazing are those little rovers on the surface. Those definitely have Energizer Bunny Syndrome. In reality it is a tribute to the engineering.
  • But we have to act fast [transformersthemovie.com].

HELP!!!! I'm being held prisoner in /usr/games/lib!

Working...