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Phoenix in safe mode
Posted: Sat, Nov 1, 2008, 8:39 AM ET (1239 GMT)
Phoenix Mars lander illustration (Univ. of Arizona) NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander spacecraft is in a protective safe mode but is communicating again, project officials said this week. Phoenix apparently entered the safe mode earlier this week because of declining power levels exacerbated by a dust storm. The spacecraft did not respond to communications requests Wednesday, but did regain contact with the Odyssey orbiter late Thursday. Project officials said they hope to use the communications links with orbiting spacecraft to get the spacecraft working again, a process that would take "the better part of a week" in the best-case situation. Controllers started turning off heaters and other systems on Phoenix this week to conserve power and extend the spacecraft's life as sunlight levels at the landing site decrease. Phoenix has been on the surface for over five months on a mission originally planned to last only three.
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