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Listening for Mars Polar Lander

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an array of radio antennas at WesterborkFebruary 1, 2000 -- According to a report from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, scientists at Stanford University have not detected a signal from the Mars Polar Lander spacecraft in data they collected last week. The Stanford team will continue to analyze the data and it is still possible that more detailed analysis might reveal a signal.

In the meantime, additional radio telescopes around the world have offered their assistance in helping to confirm if the signal picked up by Stanford is from Polar Lander. The project has accepted offers of help from an array of fourteen 25-meter (82-foot) antennas at Westerbork in The Netherlands as well as the 76-meter (about 250-foot) antenna at Jodrell Bank, near Manchester, England and an array located near Bologna, Italy.

Right: The Westerbork Array in the Netherlands consists of 14 radio telescopes with diameters of 25 meters each. These antennas and others around the world are joining the search for signals from Mars Polar Lander.

"The international community has shown a real interest in being involved in our search. We appreciate their efforts and I think it shows that Mars is something that captivates everyone's imagination," said Richard Cook, project manager for Mars Polar Lander at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA.

New commands will be sent to the lander from NASA's Deep Space Network around the clock on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, Feb. 1 and 2. These commands will essentially tell the spacecraft, if it is functioning, to reset its clock and send a signal to Earth. On Friday, Feb. 4, windows will open for the antennas in The Netherlands, England and Italy to begin listening. The antenna at Stanford may also listen during these windows.

The one-way light time from Earth to Mars is currently about 16 minutes. Mars is presently about 300 million kilometers (181 million miles) from Earth.

Mars Polar Lander is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, DC. Lockheed Martin Astronautics Inc., Denver, CO, is the agency's industrial partner for development and operation of the spacecraft. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA.Web Links

Never Say Die -January 27, 2000. After receiving weak signals that may have come from Mars Polar Lander on Dec. 18 and Jan. 4, Stanford radio astronomers are again listening for murmurs from the missing spacecraft.

NASA's Mars Exploration Program -from JPL.

Mars Polar Lander Mission Status -January 31, 2000.