Found and lost

7:24pm, November 21, 2005

Ever since NASA lost contact with the Mars Polar Lander in late 1999, minutes before it was to have parachuted onto the Red Planet, astronomers have been looking for the craft's remains. Last summer, astronomers reported that a camera aboard the orbiting Mars Global Surveyor had found what seemed to be the lander's debris (SN: 6/4/05, p. 366). But the researchers now say that they were wrong.

Michael C. Malin of Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego and his colleagues based their original findings on images taken in January 2000 by Surveyor's high-resolution camera. A dark streak appeared to be evidence of a rocket having blasted the Martian soil, while bright spots appeared to be remains of the parachute and body of the lander.

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