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Spirit rover may have begun hibernation
Posted: Thu, Apr 1, 2010, 5:19 AM ET (0919 GMT)
Mars Exploration Rover (NASA/JPL) NASA's Mars rover Spirit missed a routine communications session with Earth earlier this week, leading project officials to conclude that the aging rover has gone into a power-conserving hibernation mode as anticipated. Spirit did not communicate with Earth as scheduled on March 30, which likely means the spacecraft has entered a power conservation mode where it suspends communications and other activities. Project officials expected that Spirit would do this when the rover, trapped for nearly a year in a patch of sandy soil, was not able to maneuver itself into an orientation that would maximize power production from its solar panels during the local winter. This hibernation mode will likely last for several months, though the winter solstice in mid-May. Engineers believe that while the rover's internal temperature will drop to its coldest level ever, it will remain within the tolerances of the rover's electronics. Spirit's twin rover, Opportunity, is continuing normal operations, traveling towards a crater elsewhere on the planet.
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