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Explore Mars event
Software problem may have caused MGS loss
Posted: Thu, Jan 11, 2007, 7:47 AM ET (1247 GMT)
MGS illustration (NASA/JPL) NASA officials said this week a big in software uploaded to the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft may have led to the permanent loss of communications the spacecraft suffered in November. John McNamee, deputy program manager for NASA's Mars Exploration Program, said at a meeting in the Washington DC area earlier this week that software uploaded to MGS in June overwrote two memory addresses, eventually causing the gimbals that move the spacecraft's solar arrays to hit a hard stop. This put the spacecraft into a safe mode that could have been recovered from, but the spacecraft's radiators were pointed towards the Sun, causing the battery to overheat and fail, dooming the orbiter. That analysis is considered preliminary, and on Wednesday NASA announced that it was convening an internal review board to review the cause of the spacecraft's failure. MGS had been orbiting Mars for over nine years when communications with the spacecraft were lost on November 2.
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