MEDIA RELATIONS OFFICE
JET PROPULSION LABORATORY
CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
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Mars Polar Lander Mission Status
December 3, 1999, 5 p.m.
Mission controllers for NASA's Mars Polar Lander mission are
awaiting the next opportunity to communicate with the spacecraft,
whose transmissions have not yet been received since it landed on
Mars shortly after noon Pacific time today.
"I'm very confident the lander survived the descent," said
Mars Polar Lander Project Manager Richard Cook at JPL.
"Everything looked very good. I think we're a long way from
getting concerned. It is not unexpected that we would not hear
from it during the first opportunity." A variety of hardware
problems from which the lander could recover may be responsible
for the delay in initial telecommunications.
During the last telecommunications opportunity, which began
at 2:04 p.m. PST, the spacecraft would have automatically moved
its steerable antenna in a search pattern designed to find the
Earth. The next communications window opens at 6:27 p.m. PST
today when the team will again send commands to the lander
instructing it to maneuver its medium gain antenna in another
attempt to look for Earth. The lander would then carry out that
procedure to transmit to Earth beginning at 8:08 p.m. until 10:40
Even if no transmissions are heard today mission controllers
have another opportunity to hear from the lander on Saturday.
This is the time the spacecraft would be transmitting if it went
into a safe mode shortly after landing. Engineers would also
listen for it on Sunday evening, when the spacecraft would
automatically switch to its UHF radio and transmit via Mars
Global Surveyor. After that, they will send commands instructing
the spacecraft to swap between various hardware subsystems in
case one is damaged.
The Deep Space 2 microprobes, which impacted Mars about 60
kilometers (about 35 miles) from the lander, will transmit data
through Mars Global Surveyor. The team will be listening tonight
at about 7:30 p.m. when contact is expected with the microprobes.
The flight team's best flight path estimates are that lander
most likely touched down at about 76.1 degrees south latitude,
195.3 degrees west longitude. The estimates for the Deep Space 2
microprobe impacts are 75.0 degrees south latitude, 163.5 degrees
east longitude with the two probes being separated from each
other by only a few kilometers.
Mars Polar Lander is part of a series of missions in a long-
term program of Mars exploration managed by JPL for NASA's Office
of Space Science, Washington, D.C. JPL's industrial partner is
Lockheed Martin Astronautics, Denver. JPL is a division of the
California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.