Goodby Beagle2, but what actually happened to the mars Polar lander?

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Goodby Beagle2, but what actually happened to the mars Polar lander?

Interesting article, it may be sitting happily on Mars ready to go, but just not working...

fter months of crossing interplanetary space, Mars Polar Lander was in the final minutes of slowing itself down, ready to make a self-controlled touch down. It was never heard from again.

Nobody knows for sure exactly what occurred at journey's end.

The loss of the Mars Polar Lander became a detective story that pitted photo analysts at a super-secret spy agency and NASA experts about the overall condition of the lost-to-Mars probe.

It's a saga of light and dark pixels, egos, and professional courtesy, and a report that never saw the light of day, until now.

.... rest on site....

end... The NIMA team identified three candidate sites that had "pixel returns" appearing to match the expected signatures of the lander and its associated hardware. A pixel is the smallest discrete component of an image. The greater the number of pixels-per- inch, the greater the resolution.

A central feature, tagged as site two, was assessed as the possible location of the Mars Polar Lander itself. This double "bright-spot" signature could very well be an upright lander, sitting on the surface with its solar panels in the deployed position, the NIMA experts reported.

Another pixel return, called site one, was subjected to intense scrutiny. The NIMA analysts believed that signature may well represent the lander's backshell, a protective cover that encased the robot probe during atmospheric entry. In every image of site 1, there appears to be an object visible on the surface that is brighter than the background. This object is located nearly two miles (3-kilometers) up-range from the possible MPL landing zone.

At site one, attempts to discern a large, 20-foot (6-meter) diameter white parachute that was to remain attached to the backshell proved problematic. The interaction of the parachute lying on the surface could be causing that signature to become indistinct, the search team concluded.

Lastly, a bright pixel at site three may be indicative of the presence of human-made materials, the NIMA researchers stated. This locale includes a possible high-velocity impact site, including what appears to be ground scarring, leading up to a glint. That glint could be the MPL heat shield, the analytical team surmised.

The bottom line to the NIMA assessment: The Mars Polar Lander failure likely occurred late in the spacecraft's rocket engine- powered descent phase, or perhaps even after landing.
By netchicken: posted on 28-12-2003

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