NASA Calls Opportunity Three Times a Week, No Response

NASA unable to contact Opportunity 1 photo
Photo: NASA
One of the longest running Martian rovers, the Opportunity, seems to be at the end of its rope, as increasingly organised attempts to get the machine up and running again remain unanswered.
On Thursday, NASA updated the status of the rover resuscitation efforts, saying that despite the fact no new storm activity is to be seen within 1,864 miles (3,000 kilometers) of the rover site, Opportunity remains silent.

Scientists and engineers are now sending a command three times a week to the rover, waiting for a beep from the machine. NASA is using Deep Space Network antennas (DNS) to listen for a possible response. Additionally, a JPL team records signals from Mars on a daily basis and then scans the recording for Opportunity transmissions.

Affected by the lack of sunlight caused by the biggest dust storm seen in recent decades on the Red Planet and due to the subsequent drop in power levels, the rover entered minimal operations mode in June, essentially shutting down to protect itself.

It is becoming more and more obvious that despite the now more clear skies, Opportunity is unable to power back up.

And even if it will, NASA says the rover might not be the same as before. The discharge of the batteries could have been so severe that they might not be able to store as much power as before, affecting the rover operational capabilities.

It is to be expected that should contact be reestablished, it would take several weeks of communications to determine the actual state of the rover.

Opportunity arrived on Mars in 2004 and was supposed to be operational for only 90 days. It beat the odds and celebrated 14 years on the job this January. Opportunity’s brother rover, the Spirit, managed to exceed its life expectation as well, but NASA lost contact with it in 2011.
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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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