NASA's Mars Odyssey began a second campaign Feb. 22 to check on whether the Phoenix Mars Lander has revived itself after the northern Martian winter. The orbiter received no signal from the lander during the first 10 overflights of this campaign.
Odyssey will listen for Phoenix during 50 additional overflights, through Feb. 26, during the current campaign.
Phoenix landed on Mars on May 25, 2008, and operated successfully in the Martian arctic for about two months longer than its planned three-month mission. Operations ended when waning sunlight left the solar-powered craft with insufficient energy to keep working. The season at the Phoenix landing site is now mid-springtime, with the sun above the horizon for roughly 22 hours each Martian day. That is comparable to the illumination that Phoenix experienced a few weeks after completing its three-month primary mission.
Phoenix was not designed to withstand the extremely low temperatures and the ice load of the Martian arctic winter. In the extremely unlikely event that the lander has survived the winter and has achieved a stable energy state, it would operate in a mode where it periodically awakens and transmits a signal to any orbiter in view.
A third campaign to check on whether Phoenix has revived itself is scheduled for April 5-9, when the sun will be continuously above the Martian horizon at the Phoenix site.
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