Engineers will use the Goldstone Deep Space communications complex in California to issue new orders to the opportunity rover on Mars to send to force the robot to make contact with the earth.
Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech
NASA has developed a new, more powerful set of commands to try to force the long-silent opportunity rover on Mars to resume operations.
Engineers Port Since June 1
"Over the last seven months, we've been trying to do this with Opportunity over 600 times," said John Callas, project manager for Opportunity, in a statement. "Although we have not heard anything of the rover and the likelihood that we will ever do it decreases with each passing day, we still want to pursue every logical solution that could bring us back in touch." [Mars Dust Storm 2018: How It Grew & What It Means for Opportunity]
As the silence expanded in the summer, the mission members hoped the storm had simply thrown dust on the solar panels that drove the opportunity, and that a natural seasonal weather phenomenon on Mars removed that dust and recharged the rover. (These dust removal events started in November and should continue this week.)
This hope led the team to focus on so-called "sweep-and-beep" commands that cause the rover to send a signal home, when it has started up again, even though its internal clock was still out of control due to the storm.
The new commands are designed to address this possibility and two other possibilities: the failure of their primary or X-band radios. (In the statement, NASA unlikely named these scenarios.) With this new approach, Opportunity is invited not only to beep, but also to completely switch the communication mode.
NASA's announcement of the new approach comes just one day after the agency was celebrated 15 years landing Opportunity on January 24, 2004. When the Rover and its twin spirit Spirit landed, they should hold 90 Mars days, each of which is about 40 minutes longer than an earthly day.
The mission personnel had hoped to hear about the Rover in the meantime, given the favorable weather on Mars. Instead, Opportunity now faces the onslaught of the cold Martian winter, which could further damage the rover if it does not have enough power to keep warm.
The agency said they'll be sending the new orders to Opportunity for several weeks. "If the rover remains dumb, NASA must decide whether to give up any hopes for the mission.