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Mars Polar Lander crash site spotted
Posted: Fri, May 6, 2005, 8:20 AM ET (1220 GMT)
Mars Polar Lander illustration Scientists examining images of the surface of Mars said Thursday that they have spotted what they believe may be the crash site of NASA's Mars Polar Lander spacecraft. The lander was to touch down near the south polar regions of the planet in December 1999, but contact with the spacecraft was never established after the scheduled landing time, and the spacecraft was eventually declared lost; a later investigation concluded an engineering flaw caused the lander's descent engine to shut down prematurely. An earlier search for the spacecraft in images from the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) spacecraft turned up no conclusive evidence of the spacecraft, but scientists reexamined the images after later observations of the Mars Exploration Rover landing sites offered clues for how to spot the small spacecraft on the surface. Researchers now say that they have identified bright features that they believe are the lander's parachute as well as the lander itself. Followup observations, using a higher-resolution observing mode of the MGS camera, are planned for later this year.
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