Science: Farewell to the Red Planet

A faithful robot orbiting Mars finally runs out of gas

Precisely on schedule one day last week, controllers at Caltech's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., sent an electronic command leaping across 164 million miles of space. With that, Viking Orbiter 1, which has been faithfully circling Mars once every 47½ hours for the past four years, expelled its last puff of steering gas. No longer maneuverable, its electrical systems silenced, the unmanned spacecraft will now slowly sink until it finally crashes into Mars some time after the year 2019.

Even the cool NASA...

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