PASADENA, Calif., April 1 (UPI) — The U.S. space agency says its Mars exploration rover named Spirit skipped a planned communication session this week and may have entered hibernation mode.
NASA said the rover missed a planned Tuesday communication downlink. The switch to a low-power hibernation mode was anticipated from recent power-supply projections, officials said.
While in hibernation, the rover’s clock keeps running, but communications and other activities are suspended so all available energy is used for heating and battery recharging, scientists said. When the battery charge is adequate, the rover attempts to wake up and communicate on a schedule it knows.
“We may not hear from Spirit again for weeks or months, but we will be listening at every opportunity, and our expectation is that Spirit will resume communications when the batteries are sufficiently charged,” said John Callas, project manager for Spirit and its twin rover Opportunity at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Spirit’s power supply is low because daily sunshine is declining with the approach of the winter solstice, NASA said. In addition, the rover is stuck in soft sand and unable to put its solar panels at a favorable angle toward the sun.
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