JPL scientists and engineers continued their attempts to contact the spacecraft for days after the initial loss without success. The MGS team used resources like Spirit and Opportunity, the rovers on the Martian surface, as well as other spacecraft in the planet's orbit, but there was still no sign. An internal NASA board was formed to look into why the spacecraft went silent. The results were released April 13.
The board traced the problem back to a routine update relayed to the onboard MGS computers that caused inconsistencies in the spacecraft's memory.
"Then, later in November when we tried to move the solar panels, it tipped the spacecraft [toward the sun]," Li said.
When the spacecraft was ordered to perform a routine adjustment of its solar panels, a series of alarms were set off; however, the spacecraft later indicated it was stabilized. That was the last time ground control heard from MGS.
The board has determined that when that order was given, the spacecraft mistakenly turned its solar panel toward the sun that exposed its battery to direct sunlight.
"This made the battery warmer and warmer," Li said. "The spacecraft assumed that the battery was being charged."
Although the initial command was sent to the wrong location the board concluded that the MGS team followed existing procedures but those procedures were insufficient to catch the errors that occurred.
"That is one of the most important things, to try to understand what caused the problem and make changes to our project, our training and operation," Li said. "We will review all of this [data] and take action."
At this point however the whereabouts of the spacecraft are not known.