Shortly after midnight, NASA sent one last plea to the silent rover Spirit, mired in a sand trap on the surface of Mars. "Please phone home." With that, the space agency ended its efforts Wednesday to contact the workhorse robot geologist, which has been unresponsive for more than a year. Rather than spend time and money hanging onto faint hope, mission managers decided to turn their focus on Spirit's healthy twin Opportunity and prepare for the upcoming launch of the next Mars mega-rover.
Orbiting spacecraft will continue to passively listen for Spirit until the end of May, but the chance of a response is slim. "There's a sadness that we have to say goodbye to Spirit," said project manager John Callas of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which runs the twin rovers. NASA canceled a televised farewell fete planned for next Tuesday after The Associated Press reported this week that Spirit's mission was over. Upon hearing the news, Spirit fans commiserated on Twitter and thanked the rover for its hard work.