Mars Polar Lander still lost

Contributed by
Oct 24, 2005

Well, this is a bummer. Back on May 5, 2005, I reported that the Mars Polar Lander had been found. MPL was a NASA probe that crashed into Mars, presumably due to a combined hardware and software error (due to a glitch, the landing rockets may have switched off when it was still well above the surface, so it crashed instead of landing softly). In that May 5 entry in my blog, I showed where the orbiting Mars Global Surveyor may have spotted the doomed lander. I was careful to note the identification wasn't 100% positive...

... and, unfortunately, it turns out MPL was not seen after all. As reported by the team who designed, built, and operate the Mars Orbiting Camera *, the image that sure looked like MPL before has changed significantly since then, indicating it's not the crashed remains of the probe. Here's the before and after picture (click it to get a bigger one):

Basically, what was thought to be light from the lander was really noise in the image, akin to static on your radio. This is a bummer, as it was rather cool to be able to see it. It doesn't really change anything-- the probe is still crashed, and we still aren't precisely sure why (though we're pretty sure). But having some imaging evidence might have led to better images, and more clues as to why the accident happened.

Hi Jenn!

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