NASA Calls Opportunity Three Times a Week, No Response

Ismael LynchOct 31, 2018

With clearing skies over Opportunity's resting spot in Mars' Perseverance Valley, engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, believe the almost 15-year-old, solar-powered rover will soon receive enough sunlight to automatically initiate recovery procedures - if the rover is able to do so. If this occurs Opportunity's grand voyage of exploration may have come to an end due to this dust storm which robbed us of essential solar power. But even if Opportunity does wake up, it's still "not out of the woods" as "there's a real possibility the rover won't be the same".

"Assuming that we hear back from Opportunity, we all begins he process of dswcverign its status and bringing it back online".

Scientists have been tracking the progress of the storm and estimating tau levels using photographs captured by the NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and its Mars Color Imager. "Nonetheless, in the now not actually chance that there could be a giant quantity of mud sitting on the solar arrays that's blocking the sun's vitality, we are going to have the flexibility to proceed passive listening efforts for several months". There is a precedent for this unlikely-sounding event; in 2003 battery power levels for both Opportunity and its twin rover, Spirit saw their battery percentage supercharged by one dust-filled Martian night.

The clock is now officially ticking on the entire Opportunity mission. The good news is no dust storms are brewing within 1,900 miles of Opportunity according to MRO Project Scientist Rich Zurek.

"Images of the Opportunity site have shown no active dust storms for some time within 3,000 kilometers [about 1,900 miles] of the rover site".

The solar-powered Opportunity was trudging through Mars' Perseverance Valley when the storm struck. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ.

"The Sun is breaking through the haze over Perseverance Valley, and soon there will be enough sunlight present that Opportunity should be able to recharge its batteries", John Callas of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement. However, it's also possible that other conditions during the dust storm damaged critical components of Opportunity, and the rover has, in fact, reached its final resting place. If 45 days have passed without a response, the team will cease its active efforts to recover the rover.

Those now working on the Opportunity mission are also disappointed and surprised by the 45-day limit to listening efforts, according to project sources not authorized to speak on the record.

The chances are small that dust accumulation would be the root cause of Opportunity's lack of communication. If that's the case, it will take time for Mars's winds to clear off the solar panels enough for Opportunity to recharge and be open to receiving signals. The objective of the rover is to move gradually and to make scientific observations.

"In a situation like this you hope for the best but plan for all eventualities", he said. Engineers were hopeful that when the dust began to settle, the rover would spring back to life, but that just hasn't happened yet. "We're pulling for our tenacious rover to drag her feet from the fireplace one additional time. And if she does, we will be there to hear her".

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