Mars Global Surveyor Bites the Dust

National Aeronautic and Space Association (NASA) scientists fear that the suddenly silent Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) is lost forever. MGS orbited Mars for over 9 years transmitting information and over 240,000 images to Earth from Mars, before failing a few weeks ago because of a solar panel malfunction. NASA launched the craft 10 years ago and it was only expected to last 2 years -- or 1 Martian year -- but the orbiter remained active until now, so scientists emphasize that MGS has had a productive existence.

Over the past two weeks NASA valiantly attempted to revive the floundering craft, at times employing the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and a rover called Opportunity to locate MGS, but all attempts were to no avail. Ground controllers who tried to communicate with MGS "were met with a silent response from the misbehaving probe", according to a a report.

The Mars Global Surveyor was the oldest of five NASA spacecraft currently in use on Mars, which also include the 2001 Mars Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), Mars Express, and two Mars Exploration Rovers called Opportunity and Spirit. Spirit was the subject an October profile by the satirical news journal The Onion titled: "Mars Rover Beginning to Hate Mars". (link fixed 10/11)

The Onion wrote of an increasingly hostile rover sending belligerent messages ("STILL NO WATER") and the occasional obscene gesture back to the Earth. The paper said that an irate Spirit was jealous of the orbiting spacecrafts because they got to fly and suspected that the other rover, Opportunity, "has found water and isn't telling anyone". The fictional report quoted an ever optimistic Spirit management team:

"Hopefully these malfunctions will straighten themselves out," one of the lead scientists commented about the robot and its spiteful messages..."In the meantime, we'll simply have to try to glean what usable data we can from 'OVERPRICED SPACE-ROOMBA AWAITING MORE BULLSHIT ORDERS.'"

Even scientists become a little sentimental about these robots it seems, anthropomorphizing the robots not only in fiction but real life. "We may have lost a dear old friend and teacher," said Michael Meyer, chief scientist for Mars exploration at NASA, according to non-fiction news reports. No doubt it will be a sad final farewell, but along with "ashes to ashes and dust to dust", I'm sure scientists and long time friends will say that the Mars Global Surveyor (MGS) died doing what (s)he loved best.

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