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Home / Science / Six Things About NASA Opportunity Rover Recovery Efforts, Silence Since June 10 |

Six Things About NASA Opportunity Rover Recovery Efforts, Silence Since June 10 |



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Side-by-side movies show how dust has enveloped the Red Planet with the Mars Color Imager (MARCI) wide-angle camera aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). (NASA image)

(NASA) ̵

1; The NASA Rover Opportunity was silent since June 10, when a planet-orbiting dust storm cuts off solar energy for the nearly 15-year-old rover.

Now that scientists think the global dust storm is "expiring" – meaning that more dust is falling from the atmosphere than is being thrown back at it – the sky could soon be clear enough that the solar-powered Rover will recharge and "home" can call.

Nobody will know how the Rover behaves until it speaks. But the team gives cause for optimism: they have conducted several studies on the state of the batteries before the storm and the temperatures at their location. Since the batteries were in relatively good condition before the storm, there probably will not be too much degradation. And because dust storms tend to warm the environment – and the storm happened in 2018 when Opportunity's site on Mars entered the summer – the rover should have stayed warm enough to survive.

What will engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, do – and what will these signs mean for recovery efforts?

A dew below 2

Dust storms on Mars block sunlight from reaching the surface, raising the level of a measurement called "dew". "The higher the dew, the less sunlight is available, and the last dew measured by Opportun was 10.8 on June 10. By comparison, an average rope for its position on Mars is normally 0.5.

JPL- Engineers predict that Opportunity will require a tau of less than 2.0 before the solar-powered Rover will be able to recharge its batteries A NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter wide-angle camera will be looking for surface features that will be visible when This will help scientists appreciate the dew.

Dust Storm and Dew updates can be found here.

Two Ways to Listen

Use several times a week Engineers NASA's Deep Space Network, which communicates between planetary probes and Earth to speak with Opportunity, with massive DSN antennas pinging the rover during scheduled "wake-up" times Then look for signals sent by Opportunity as a response.

In addition, JPL's radio research group uses special devices on DSN antennas that can capture a wider bandwidth of frequencies. Every day they pick up a radio signal from Mars during most Rovers' daylight hours and then search the footage for Opportunity's "voice."

Rover makes mistakes

When Opportunity encounters a problem, it can go into so-called "failure modes", where it automatically takes action to maintain its health. The engineers prepare for three major error modes when they report back from Opportunity.

Power outage: Engineers predict that the Rover was caught in a power outage shortly after the end of communications on June 10. This mode causes the rover to go to sleep, assuming it wakes up at a time when there is more sunlight to recharge it.
Timing error: For operation in the idle state, the clock of the rover is crucial. If the rover does not know what time it is, he does not know when to try to communicate. The rover can use environmental factors, such as an increase in sunlight, to make assumptions over time.
Uploss Disruption: If the Rover has not heard of Earth for a long time, it can blame it in "uploss" – a warning that its communications equipment may not work. When it finds out, it starts to check the equipment and tries different ways to communicate with the earth.
What happens when they hear it?

After the first time that engineers hear about Opportunity, there could be a delay of several weeks before a second time. It's like a patient coming out of coma: it takes time to fully recover. It can take several communication sessions until the engineers have enough information to take action.

The first thing to do is to learn more about the Rover's condition. The Opportunity team will ask for a history of the rover's battery and solar cells and measure their temperature. If the watch loses track, it will be reset. The rover would take pictures of itself to see if dust could stick to sensitive parts, and test actuators to see if dust penetrates its joints.

Once all of this data has been collected, the team will conduct a survey on whether they are ready to attempt a full recovery.

Not off the hook

Even if engineers back up Opportunity, there is a real possibility that the rover will not be the same.

The rover's batteries could have discharged so much energy – and been inactive for so long – that their capacity is being reduced. If these batteries can not absorb as much charge, this could affect the operation of the rover. It could also mean that the de-energizing behavior, such as operating its heaters during the winter, could cause the batteries to leak out.

Dust is not usually such a problem. Earlier storms stuck dust on the camera lenses, but most of it was eroded over time. Any remaining dust can be calibrated.

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