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Ian Morison, Jodrell Bank
We don't want people to come near our telescope with mobile phones
 real 28k

Wednesday, 2 February, 2000, 13:14 GMT
Earth turns its ears to Mars
Jodrell Bank
Jodrell Bank will now join the hunt
European radio scientists are to join the hunt for the Mars Polar Lander (MPL) which has been missing since it entered the atmosphere of the Red Planet on 3 December last year.

It shows that Mars is something that captivates everyone's imagination

Richard Cook, MPL project manager
Many suspect the probe was destroyed but after additional processing, two small blips were noticed in data collected on 18 December and 4 January by the 45-metre (150-foot) radio dish at Stanford University.

The blips suggested MPL may still be alive.

Fresh commands were sent to Mars last week ordering the lander to get in touch with Earth. Although a return signal was not detected, mission managers at Nasa intend to widen its search.

Now, other radio telescopes around the world have offered to help in the search for MPL. These include the 76-metre (250-foot) antenna at Jodrell Bank, near Manchester, UK, an array of fourteen 25-metre (82-foot) antennas at Westerbork in The Netherlands, and an array located near Bologna, Italy.

International community

"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 MPL at Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, in California, US.
The Stanford dish raised hopes
New commands will be sent to the lander from Nasa's Deep Space Network around the clock on Tuesday and Wednesday this week. These commands will essentially tell the spacecraft, if it is functioning, to reset its clock and send a signal to Earth. On 4 February, windows will open for the antennas in The Netherlands, the UK and Italy to begin listening.

Mars is currently about 300 million kilometres (181 million miles) from Earth and it will take about 16 minutes for a signal to pass between the two worlds.

Even if MPL is found, Nasa says there is no hope of rescuing the mission to do any useful science. A successful hunt could, however, throw up useful information that might benefit later missions to the Red Planet.

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See also:

27 Jan 00 | Sci/Tech
Nasa waits on new Mars search
17 Jan 00 | Sci/Tech
Nasa ends search for Mars probe
14 Dec 99 | Sci/Tech
Nasa to scan Mars for lost probe
07 Dec 99 | Sci/Tech
Mars probe silence signals failure
06 Dec 99 | Sci/Tech
Mars: Mission impossible?
08 Dec 99 | Sci/Tech
Mars 'wake up call' for Nasa
06 Dec 99 | Sci/Tech
Mars 2 - Earth 0
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