NASA has cleared up a malfunction that for several hours caused a rupture in communications between Phoenix Mars Lander, the US space agency said on Wednesday.
NASA said a "transient event" had knocked out UHF radio transmissions between Phoenix and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), which relays data and instructions between the Phoenix and Earth.
A statement early on Wednesday from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California said the problem was solved late on Tuesday, although scientists still do not know what caused the glitch.
"NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter successfully received information from Phoenix last evening and relayed the information to Earth," the statement said.
"The relayed transmission included images and other data collected by Phoenix during the mission’s second day after landing on Mars," according to space officials, who added that the Mars Odyssey orbiter was scheduled to relay commands to the lander early today.
The malfunction delayed the commands to deploy Phoenix’s robotic arm, which will collect samples of soil and hopefully ice as well as traces of organic compounds, the building blocks of life.
Phoenix’s robotic arm has the ability to dig as deep as half a metre below the surface to reach a permafrost-like layer of water ice mixed with soil.