Opportunity Mars Rover could be dead forever

Opportunity Mars Rover
NASA hasn't yet given up on Opportunity Mars rover

NASA had lost contact with Opportunity Mars Rover back in June 2018 during a global dust storm on the red planet, and experts think the rover might be dead.

The rover, whose initial mission was only for 90 days, has been hard at work since and has outlasted almost expectation with its 15th year on Mars completing this week.

But the rover faced one of the most ferocious dust storms on Mars in decades after which signal was lost, with experts suggesting the storm could have damaged or covered its solar panels leading to loss of power.

If true, it would mean contact with the rover has been lost permanently. However, NASA is hoping that the batteries will recharge enough once the skies cleared up to reestablish communication.

NASA is not giving up on the Opportunity Mars Rover

NASA Opportunity Mars Rover CERN
A poingant reminder of Opportunity’s contribution
Credit xkcd / CERN

NASA has its antennas on Earth try to send a message and listed for a response every day since the June 2018 dust storm, albeit without success so far. According to a NASA announcement, apprimately 600 attempts have been made to contact Opportunity so far with many to follow.

However, on Friday 25th of January, NASA announced it has begun sending a new set of commands to try to ascertain if the rover has revived but is unable to communicate due to issues with its radio.

The commands will be beamed over the next several weeks will test and address low-likelihood events that could be preventing the rover from transmitting back to Earth.

The project manager of Opportunity at JPL, John Callas, think that ” the probability that we ever will is decreasing each day,” but still plans to pursue every logical solution that could help to reestablish contact.

Time is of the essence

The NASA JPL team operating the Oppotunity is in a rush to try and find a solution, or they fear it might be too late. The fear is that once the current Martian season ends the strong winds will die down.

“Until he tells us to close down the project, we’ll keep going,”
Dr. John Callas , Project Manager NASA/JPL

NASA scientists expected the rovers to last only 90 days because of the dust buildup on the solar panel of Opportunity, this seasonal gusty wind clears up the dust on rovers solar panels.

Winter looming on the southern hemisphere of the Mars, where Opportunity Rover is currently, which brings extremely low temperatures that could irreparably damage the uncharged batteries and internal wiring systems.

If none of the transmission strategies planned for near future work, the team with probably declare the rover dead, suffering a similar fate to its twin, Spirit.

A Martian mystery may remain unsolved

The NASA/JPL team is adamant to bring the rover back because with its death a tantalising mystery may remain unsolved for decades.

The Opportunity was exploring a small channel likely formed by flowing water on ancient Mars. The rover had just started going down the channel to explore where it led to confirm if it was indeed water that had created the landscape when it was hit by the dust storms.

However, with time the possibility of restarting the opportunity seems to be going downhill.

Source | Via

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