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10-Nov-06 | On the tenth anniversary of its launch, the Mars Global Surveyor is missing in action.

Starting on 2 November, an issue with a solar array motor combined with a loss of the high gain antenna signal to make communications with Mars Global Surveyor spotty at best. The situation continued to degrade, and since 5 November no signals at all have been received on Earth. Mission managers are still trying to determine what might have gone wrong, including the possibility of a micrometeoroid strike. If no response comes by early next week, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (which passes within 100 kilometers of MGS several times a week) may be called upon to image the missing bird, which could show whether its solar panels and high gain antenna are oriented properly.

Now in its fourth extended mission, MGS is the venerable “old guard” of Mars observation, having sent back more than 240,000 images since it reached orbit in September 1997. It launched aboard Delta 239 on 7 November 1996. (New Scientist, 09-Nov-06)

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