As winter approaches, the probe that fired the imagination of the American public is shivering in sub-zero Martian temperatures, cut off from home, unable to send home pictures or receive the orders programmers are sending it to hit its restart button. The plucky Sojourner rover is left to run aimless circles round the craft — and now NASA is about to give up on both of them.
But fret not. "I think we're going to have a wake to celebrate what we've done, rather than mourn," said Richard Cook, Pathfinder's mission manager. Those whiskeys will be well-deserved: the $266 million probe was only supposed to last a month. Instead, it was more than 90 days between touchdown on July 4 and last contact on October 7.
As the millions who logged on to download Pathfinder pictures will testify, the mission was an unqualified success. So dry those tears. When we finally make it to the Red Planet in person, the robot's frozen corpse can become the main attraction at the first Martian theme park.