NASA's Beloved Mars rover Opportunity has been silent for months after getting swept up in an enormous dust Storm on the Red Planet, NASA engineers have been pinging the rover to answer to no avail. Now, NASA says it wants to send new commands to the resilient explorer in hopes of making contact.
These new efforts to contact the 15-year-old rover will go on for several opportunities and opportunities three possibilities, according to an update from the space agency, namely that Opportunity is experiencing problems with its radios or internal clock. NASA called "the unlikely, but opportunity team has not lost hope yet"
"We have and want to continue to use multiple techniques in our attempts to contact the rover," John Callas, Project Manager for Opportunity at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), said in a statement.
Opportunity went quiet in June following a massive Martian dust storm – the strongest ever observed on the planet -And NASA engineers believed that the solar-powered rover went into hibernation. They are looking for a good deal of dust during a "dust-clearing season".
Now, as this season draws attention to a close, engineers are working against the clock. According to NASA, nearing low temperatures could pose new threats to Opportunity's systems and batteries.
Steven Squyres, principal investigator for Opportunity's mission, told The New York Times that he still has hope. However, he added: "This could be the end. Under the assumption that this is the end, it feels good. I mean that. "
This month, Opportunity celebrated the 15th anniversary of its landing on the Red Planet as part of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover mission. Together with its twin rover Spirit, which was touched down on Mars weeks before it in 2004, Opportunity embarked on what is expected to be a 90-day mission to search for signs of water on the planet. Both rovers far outlasted their expected mission lifetimes. While Spirit's run on Mars effectively ended in 2011, Opportunity Persisted and continued to make invaluable scientific discoveries.
"Fifteen years on the surface of Mars is not just a machine of exploration but a dedicated and talented team behind it." Red Planet, "Callas said in a statement earlier this week. "However, this anniversary can not help but be a bittersweet as at present we do not know the rover's status. […] We're doing everything in our power to communicate with Opportunity, but as time goes on, the probability of a successful contact with the rover continues to diminish. "
We're rooting for you, Oppy. Please phone home.
[Jet Propulsion Laboratory, New York Times]