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Mars Lander Faces Slow Death 212

Riding with Robots writes "It's the beginning of the end for the Phoenix Mars Lander. As winter approaches in the Martian arctic, NASA says it's in a 'race against time and the elements' in its efforts to prolong the robotic spacecraft's life. Starting today, mission managers will begin to gradually shut the lander's systems down, hoping to conserve dwindling solar power and thereby extend the remaining systems' useful life. 'Originally scheduled to last 90 days, Phoenix has completed a fifth month of exploration in the Martian arctic. As expected, with the Martian northern hemisphere shifting from summer to fall, the lander is generating less power due to shorter days and fewer hours of sunlight reaching its solar panels. At the same time, the spacecraft requires more power to run several survival heaters that allow it to operate even as temperatures decline.'"

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