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Wednesday, March 11, 1998 Published at 06:05 GMT


Nasa kisses Pathfinder goodbye
image: [ Nasa scientist Ben Toyoshima waits for a flicker of life ]
Nasa scientist Ben Toyoshima waits for a flicker of life

After more than five months, Nasa scientists have declared the Pathfinder spacecraft officially 'dead'.

Several attempts have been made to contact the craft since September, after communications were cut on the 83rd day of its Mars mission.

But after one final attempt on Tuesday, Nasa officials pronounced it 'dead' at 13:21 local time (21:21 GMT).

Richard Cook, the mission manager, said: "This is sort of the end of the end. This is an actual goodbye."

[ image: One of many pictures sent home]
One of many pictures sent home
Ben Toyoshima, the flight controller who spent three hours on Tuesday hoping for a flicker on his computer screen, took the loss in his stride.

"There was a kind of a sadness, but also a sense of closure," he said.

"There was a sense of pleasure amongst the flight team because we did everything we started out to do during the course of the mission."

He said the Pathfinder mission had worked well, in comparison with the Mars Observer that disappeared unexpectedly in 1993.

The final chapter of the £162m ($266m) mission came as engineers and scientists in the team's control room in Pasadena waited in vain for a radio signal indicating that the spacecraft was still 'alive'.

The team had attempted to make contact with the craft, in the hope of discovering whether the Rover might still be circling around its mothership, looking for a signal.

Pathfinder landed on July 4 and immediately began sending home images of a reddish, rocky terrain as well as daily weather reports.

During its months moving around Mars, the probe analysed rocks and took more than 500 pictures with its camera.


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