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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2007 > Apr > Apr 13

Report Reveals Likely Causes of Mars Spacecraft

From: NASA News <hqnews.nul>
Date: Fri, 13 Apr 2007 11:44:18 -0400
Fwd Date: Fri, 13 Apr 2007 13:34:38 -0400
Subject: Report Reveals Likely Causes of Mars Spacecraft


April 13, 2007

Dwayne Brown
Headquarters, Washington
202-358-1726

Guy Webster
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
818-354-6278

RELEASE: 07-88

REPORT REVEALS LIKELY CAUSES OF MARS SPACECRAFT LOSS

WASHINGTON - After studying Mars four times as long as
originally planned, NASA's Mars Global Surveyor orbiter appears
to have succumbed to battery failure caused by a complex
sequence of events involving the onboard computer memory and
ground commands.

The causes were released today in a preliminary report by an
internal review board. The board was formed to look more in-
depth into why NASA's Mars Global Surveyor went silent in
November 2006 and recommend any processes or procedures that
could increase safety for other spacecraft.

Mars Global Surveyor last communicated with Earth on Nov. 2,
2006. Within 11 hours, depleted batteries likely left the
spacecraft unable to control its orientation.

"The loss of the spacecraft was the result of a series of events
linked to a computer error made five months before the likely
battery failure," said board Chairperson Dolly Perkins, deputy
director-technical of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center,
Greenbelt, Md.

On Nov. 2, after the spacecraft was ordered to perform a routine
adjustment of its solar panels, the spacecraft reported a series
of alarms, but indicated that it had stabilized. That was its
final transmission. Subsequently, the spacecraft reoriented to
an angle that exposed one of two batteries carried on the
spacecraft to direct sunlight. This caused the battery to
overheat and ultimately led to the depletion of both batteries.
Incorrect antenna pointing prevented the orbiter from telling
controllers its status, and its programmed safety response did
not include making sure the spacecraft orientation was thermally
safe.

The board also concluded that the Mars Global Surveyor team
followed existing procedures, but that procedures were
insufficient to catch the errors that occurred. The board is
finalizing recommendations to apply to other missions, such as
conducting more thorough reviews of all non-routine changes to
stored data before they are uploaded and to evaluate spacecraft
contingency modes for risks of overheating.

"We are making an end-to-end review of all our missions to be
sure that we apply the lessons learned from Mars Global Surveyor
to all our ongoing missions," said Fuk Li, Mars Exploration
Program manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena,
Calif.

Mars Global Surveyor, launched in 1996, operated longer at Mars
than any other spacecraft in history, and for more than four
times as long as the prime mission originally planned. The
spacecraft returned detailed information that has overhauled
understanding about Mars. Major findings include dramatic
evidence that water still flows in short bursts down hillside
gullies, and identification of deposits of water-related
minerals leading to selection of a Mars rover landing site.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages Mars
Global Surveyor for NASA's Science Mission Directorate,
Washington. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, developed and
operates the spacecraft.

Information about the Mars Global Surveyor mission, including
the preliminary report from the process review board and a list
of some important discoveries by the mission, is available on
the Internet at:

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/mgs

EDITORS NOTE:

NASA will hold a media teleconference today at 3 p.m. EDT, to
discuss the report.

Reporters should call 1-888-398-6118 and use the pass code
"Mars" to participate in the teleconference. International media
should call 1-773-681-5826. Replays of the teleconference will
be available by calling 866-369-3645. International media may
call: 203-369-0243.

Audio of the teleconference will stream live at:

http://www.nasa.gov/newsaudio


-end-



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