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MGS believed to be lost
Posted: Wed, Nov 22, 2006, 8:04 AM ET (1304 GMT)
MGS illustration (NASA/JPL) NASA's Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) spacecraft has remained out of contract with controllers for over two weeks, and project officials said Tuesday it's unlikely they will ever regain control of the aging orbiter. Other than a brief, faint signal detected on November 5, MGS has not communicated with Earth since November 2 despite many efforts by ground controllers to contact the spacecraft. On Monday NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft tried to take images of MGS as the two spacecraft passed close to each other in their separate orbits, but MGS was not seen in any of the images. Engineers are still working through alternative means to establish communications, including plans later this week to send commands to MGS directing it to transmit a signal to the twin Mars Exploration Rovers on the surface, but consider it unlikely MGS can be recovered at this point. Officials said that the most likely cause for the failure is a problem with one of the spacecraft's two solar panels, preventing it from pivoting to track the Sun and thus depriving the spacecraft of power. MGS, launched ten years ago this month, long ago exceeded its planned mission.
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