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Is it all over for Mars Rover?

Martian winter might do for plucky robot

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NASA is warning that we might have heard the last message from the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit because it might not survive the Martian winter.

The Spirit Rover hasn't been heard from since 22 March. The team expected it to go into hibernation mode because the low angle of the sun and the Rover's position make its solar panels all but useless until November.

Last month the team tried to contact Rover using "sweep and beep" but heard nothing.

Doug McCuistion, director of NASA's Mars Exploration Program, said: "It will be the miracle from Mars if our beloved rover phones home. It's never faced this type of severe condition before -- this is unknown territory." The team believes Rover's best, and last, chance of phoning home will come in the next few months.

In previous winters Rover used its heaters to keep its internal temperature above -40 Fahrenheit (-40°C). Without these heaters its temperature is likely to be nearer -67 Fahrenheit (-55°C).

The explorer is designed to wait until the sun has adequately recharged its batteries before calling home.

NASA said it won't give up all hope until March 2011 - the Martian summer solstice. ®

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