NASA has announced on Thursday (August 30) a deadline for the recovery of the Mars rover Opportunity, which has been attacking no dust storm for months, and some scientists who are familiar with the project say that a new timeline This does not
The rover, which launched in 2003 and landed on Mars in January 2004, gives its people the cold shoulder since June 10, when a violent dust storm enveloped the Red Planet and the sun shielded the solar cells of the planet robot. The storm has slowly subsided, so the team hopes the rover will eventually be able to turn on again and work again after a long hibernation.
But scientists familiar with the mission say that NASA has a new schedule this busy time does not offer the hard-working rover. "Opportunity has it all for you," said Tanya Harrison, a planetary scientist at Arizona State University and a research team at Opportunity, Space.com. She said that, depending on how the timeline coincides with the Marswetter, "we will not give it a fair shot." [Send the Opportunity Mars Rover Your Support (and a Postard)]
Here's the NASA plan: First, the team will wait until the dew ̵
If the silence persists, the team will eventually switch to passive listening and listen to Chance's Mars observational probes. Regardless of when this 45-day period ends, the team will passively listen in late January, said John Callas, Opportunity Project Manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told Space.com. (The original NASA press release on the ruling simply said that the team would get "several months" of passive listening after the time of active listening is over.)
But at the end of January, Rover's time with It was the Mars Exploration Rovers mission, which originally consisted of Opportunity and its sister robot Spirit. "We will not finish the mission after 45 days," Callas told Space.com. "But I will not hold the full workforce for six months or eight months if the odds of success are low."
Dust in the Wind
If this year's Dust Storm is indeed the end of the opportunity, no one will be able to say the rover is a survivor. Opportunity and Spirit, which landed on the planet in 2004, was supposed to last only 90 days of Mars (each about 40 minutes longer than one Earth day) on the planet's surface – partly because scientists expected dust to slowly bury the robots, according to Don Banfield , a planetary scientist at Cornell University who works with the Mars Exploration Rover Team. But Spirit lasted seven years, and Opportunity was nearing its 15th year at work when the storm hit. [Mars Dust Storm 2018:What It Means for the Opportunity Rover]
Banfield said this storm is a serious affair, one of the largest ever seen on the Martian surface. Although the storm dissipates, it is difficult for scientists to predict how tau, their ultimate measure of light penetration, will survive. "Getting that last bit of dust out of the air takes a lot of time," said Mike Seibert, a former flight director of the Mars Exploration Rovers program to Space.com.
There is also a big problem with the Martian Skyscape: All this dust can not go anywhere, but down. "I think that's really scary at the moment, that we know the dust will fall from the sky, but he has to go somewhere," Banfield said. Dust on Opportunity's solar panels blocks the Rover's power as effectively as dust in the air, and according to Seibert, engineers can not figure out how dusty the panels are.
One factor could save the solar power of opportunity panels from this fate, a phenomenon that surprised scientists when they saw it for the first time in the careers of the Rover: a predictable seasonal wind cycle that is strong enough to dust off instruments and rovers to blow. These wind events were scheduled to start in the earthly time in November and last until January, Harrison said, starting her work with the Mars Exploration Rovers team by producing Martian weather forecasts when there were still twin robots.
But it is not yet clear How this coincides with the opening of the 45-day window after the atmosphere hit 1.5 tau – from what NASA has publicly said so far, engineers who are trying to get the Reaching Rovers, Not Sending Active Commands at Times (19659002) The overwhelming team consensus that Harrison has heard is that active listening should be continued through the Dust Cleanup season, "which is no longer so on a large scale takes a long time, "she said. "You will not suddenly save tens of millions of dollars if you shorten the mission."
Twin rovers, various fates
Harrison and Seibert were both affected by the timeline Opportunity will be offered in comparison to how Gemini, Spirit, fared nearly a decade ago when his travels came to a sudden end. "We did everything we could have done: Spirit was in a much worse state than this fourth winter when Opportunity hit the dust storm," Seibert said. "Spirit had far less chance of actually getting in touch with Earth than Opportunity now."
In April 2009, Spirit got stuck in a position that meant the robot lost energy in the winter and was likely to freeze vital electronics Rover. The team left the robot in the winter months, but in July 2010, NASA began an intense 11-month listening campaign that linked active and passive listening, Seibert said.
From three times a week to daily, the team would call Spirit and perform a "wipe and peep" maneuver. This included a method to bring the rover's radio to a specific frequency and a second to send a signal. Meetings usually lasted an hour, but occasionally stretched up to 5 hours, and they took place day and night to meet the Mars schedule.
Between these active listening sessions, Deep Space Network engineers communicating with Mars missions automatically scan their feeds for signals that may have come from the captured rover. [10 Amazing Mars Discoveries by Rovers Spirit & Opportunity]
After almost no whisper NASA declared the Rover dead in May 2011. This decision came after a meeting with all members of the senior team, which Seibert remembers well. "It was a very purely democratic discussion," he said, adding that he was the first to hesitate to renounce Spirit and concentrate mission resources on Opportunity alone.
"It hurt to say, but in my mind, I It was okay to say it because we had done so much to bring Spirit back, and the odds were so much against this rover," he said. And then the team still had a part of the mission at work. "Mars Exploration Rovers went further, only half of the spacecraft was lost, but there was still much to do."
"Shock and Awe and Grief"
But there is no second active rover and opportunity scientist anymore and engineers have publicly talked about how demotivating the rover's silence is. Earlier this week, they realized that NASA was deciding what to do next. There was a rumor that the rover would be actively listening for 30 days after tau reached 1.5. The evening before the meeting, they decided on the Rover's fate and commissioned mission allies to launch a Twitter campaign that featured public support under the hashtag #SaveOppy . And they saw a flood of reactions that, in Harrison's opinion, could have influenced the managers' decision.
But even a 45-day period does not satisfy her or Seibert, who said he has not seen that exhausting efforts for Opportunity, as he and his colleagues have done for Spirit. "It seems simple that it's easier to say that we're done than make the extra effort to keep going in the face of adversity," Seibert said. "It still seems like it's leaving early."
NASA does not seem to communicate effectively with current team members about their decisions, Harrison said, adding that the team had no heads up on the Aug. 30 announcement. "It seems quite arbitrary, because [a] 1.5 dew is still relatively high and we're not sure where that number came from, this information was not passed on to the team," she added.
Tau measurements may not be particularly accurate at the moment Banfield mentioned that Tau is more difficult to measure when the Rover itself is out of order, because Curiosity is on the other side of the planet and scientists are forced to look at images of But Callas, JPL's project manager for Opportunity, said that NASA must draw the line somewhere as sympathetic as he is to his mourning colleagues. [Top 10 Discoveries by Mars Rovers Spirit & Opportunity: A Scientist’s View]
"It's like a loved one missing in action – the more time passes, the less likely you'll hear something," he said. "I mean, you still have hope, and we are, we will still listen, but we also have to be realistic, as difficult as that emotional."
Other Opportunity team members may not be there yet, still hoping for the best they've ever had for the robot they've been cultivating for more than a decade. And the emotional burden goes far beyond the control of the engineers.
"It kills me not to be there and not to be in the trenches when the team is working on the problem," Seibert said. He told friends that they still work with the mission when they get a signal, so he can hop on a plane and pay the bill for celebratory drinks. "I really hope I'll get this phone call soon."
Space.com senior author Mike Wall has contributed to this article. Email Meghan Bartels at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her @meghanbartels . Follow us @SpaceTotcom Facebook and Google+ . Original article on Space.com .