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Home / Science / Mars Opportunity Rover may be down for the countdown, but NASA remains hopeful

Mars Opportunity Rover may be down for the countdown, but NASA remains hopeful



Mars before and after a global dust storm. NASA hopes the 16-year-old opportunity rover will recover after losing contact with Earth in June. Scientists said it would take sunlight to start up and send signals back. ( JPL-Caltech / MSSS | NASA )

It's been almost three months since the rover opportunity on Mars has died after a dust storm, but NASA is not giving up.

The space agency is optimistic that the 1

5-year-old vehicle in golf cart size has survived the epic meteorological phenomenon that has clouded the red planet in June. In a post published on August 16, the Jet Propulsion Lab said the rover may have hibernated, which may explain why it has not tried to call home.

Mars Opportunity Rover Update [19659005] Right now, scientists can not be sure that the oldest rover on Mars is safe and able to recover. However, they asserted that Opportunity was in relatively good health before the epic global dust storm.

"They have conducted several studies on the condition of their batteries before the storm and temperatures at their location," said NASA's report. "Since the batteries were in relatively good condition before the storm, there probably will not be too much degradation."

Cold is also a problem on Mars, where the temperature can easily drop to -73 degrees Celsius. However, the place where the Rover was last seen has recently entered the summer season. With the dust storm potentially heating up the environment, the agency added that Opportunity has been able to stay warm throughout the ordeal.

"This is the worst storm the opportunity has ever seen, and we do what we can to keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best," planet scientist Steve Squyres said in a post on the website of the Planetary Society.

Opportunity Needs Sunlight Recover

NASA stated that Opportunity would need sunlight to recharge its batteries and send a signal to Earth. However, the dust storm has covered the red planet and prevented the sunlight from reaching the surface and thus the rover's solar panels.

Scientists measure the amount of dust in the atmosphere on Mars with "Tau", a measure of the atmospheric opacity. The higher the dew, the less sunlight reaches the underlying surface.

On June 10, during the solar storm, the dew in the Opportunity Site shot at 10.8, while its average was 0.5. The rover would need .20 tau to use its solar panel, recharge its batteries, and report home.

When the dust in the Martian atmosphere begins to "decay" or fall off the ground, scientists soon predict clearer skies on the planet's neighboring planet. The agency would continue to look for signals from the rover through the Deep Space Network, the telecommunications system for connecting planetary probes and engineers on Earth.

NASA warns that even if Opportunity survives the dust storm, it would take time for the probe to resume its exploration of the Red Planet. It may take several sessions over a long period of time to assess the health of the rover and attempt a full recovery.

Scientists also said that the rover could have suffered damage, especially to its batteries, after being inactive for so long.

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