Spirit speaks to NASA

National Aeronautic and Space Administration

After not transmitting information to Earth for two days, the Mars rover Spirit successfully sent data to NASA engineers early this morning.

During a communication session that began at 5:26 a.m. Pacific time and lasted for 20 minutes, NASA officials received data from the robotic explorer at a rate of 120 bits per second.

Earlier, at 4:34 a.m., Spirit transmitted a signal to Earth for approximately 10 minutes, at only 10 bits per second.

"The spacecraft sent limited data in a proper response to a ground command, and we're planning for commanding further communication sessions later today," said Pete Theisinger, project manager for the Mars Exploration Rover Project at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

NASA officials sent the transmission commands to Spirit via the NASA Deep Space network antenna complex outside Madrid, Spain.

Communication between NASA engineers and Spirit came to a halt early morning on Jan. 21 for reasons that are still unknown. Possibilities being explored include problems within the onboard computer's software or memory. Spirit had been sending back images and scientific data from the Red Planet since the rover landed on Jan. 3.

Spirit's twin, the rover Opportunity, is scheduled to land on the other side of Mars from Spirit, in a region called Meridiani Planum, on Jan. 25, at 12:05 a.m. Eastern time.

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