Phoenix Not Responding to Communications

by Nancy Atkinson on October 30, 2008

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Phoenix on Mars.  Credit: NASA

Phoenix on Mars. Credit: NASA

Update: 10/31: Phoenix communicated with NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter late Thursday. The communication reinforced a diagnosis that the spacecraft is in a precautionary mode triggered by low energy. Mission engineers are assessing the lander’s condition and steps necessary for returning to science operations.

The Phoenix Lander is not responding to attempts to communicate with it. Earlier today, we reported that Phoenix had gone into safe mode. The lander experienced a low-power fault in the electrical system due to the reduction of solar-electric power to shorter daylight hours and a dust storm, as well as extremely cold weather. Engineers for the mission were able to send a command to restart a battery that had shut off, and were hopeful that further communications would resume without incident. However, Phoenix did not respond to one of the Mars orbiter’s attempt to communicate with it Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m not ready to say goodbye to Phoenix quite yet…


Mission controllers believe the most likely situation to be that declining power has triggered a pre-set precautionary behavior of waking up for only about two hours per day to listen for an orbiter’s hailing signal. If that is the case, the wake-sleep cycling would have begun at an unknown time when batteries became depleted.

“We will be coordinating with the orbiter teams to hail Phoenix as often as feasible to catch the time when it can respond,” said Phoenix Project Manager Barry Goldstein at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. “If we can reestablish communication, we can begin to get the spacecraft back in condition to resume science. In the best case, if weather cooperates, that would take the better part of a week.”

Stay tuned…

Source: JPL

About 

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Laurel Kornfeld October 30, 2008 at 10:37 PM

Can Phoenix be put into some form of hibernation and then woken up when the Martian winter is over?

Don Alexander October 30, 2008 at 6:13 PM

Win some, lose some…

HST is back, Phoenix on the way out…

Well, it has exceeded it’s specified mission lifetime, after all.

Dan October 30, 2008 at 6:32 PM

According to the Twitter voice of Phoenix something has been heard after all.

AndJames October 31, 2008 at 12:54 AM

Ashes to ashes… Hey, wait !
Doesn’t a Phoenix always rise from the ashes?
Methinks the story ain’t over…

cwg October 31, 2008 at 5:42 AM

fascinating piece here about what phoenix’s last days on mars will be like and the “lazarus mode” that has been built into phoenix to re-awaken the little guy come spring… and why there is little hope he’ll awaken.

:(

kinda sad…

http://www.space.com/businesstechnology/081006-tw-phoenix-dying.html

Huygens October 31, 2008 at 6:47 AM

Is it too late to activate the microphone?

Sci-Fi Si October 31, 2008 at 1:32 PM

@Huygens

Activate the microphone? lol

“And now the end is near, it time to face the final…”

Hit it Phoenix!

Thank you, thank you you’ve been a lovely audience…

SydRoky November 1, 2008 at 7:27 PM

I hope you guys can reactivate after seasonal changes…That Phoenix lander needs a hibernation mode for the money that spent on it..

SydRoky November 1, 2008 at 7:28 PM

‘you guys ‘ as in NASA..

Huygens November 3, 2008 at 9:22 AM

It is a shame they didn’t at least try to activate
the microphone earlier.

We have now missed out on TWO opportunities to listen to Mars.

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