Opportunity Rover Now in a Coma, Needs Your Love to Wake Up

Postcard from the Opportunity Rover 1 photo
Photo: NASA
It’s more than two months now since NASA heard anything from one of its most successful machines currently on the surface of Mars, the Opportunity.
The rover went dark in June because of one of the most severe dust storms witnessed on the planet in recent decades, and has remained so ever since.

NASA has been trying for weeks now to contact the rover but to no avail. The agency’s engineers remain hopeful however that, as the dust settles, the machine might once again power its solar batteries and contact Earth.

In a statement released on Thursday, NASA says it is optimistic about Opportunity’s recovery prospects. That’s because diagnostics ran on the state of the batteries before the storm hit showed they are in good shape and its unlikely they suffered severe degradation.

NASA is using Deep Space Network antennas (DNS) to listen for messages from Opportunity several times a week. Additionally, a JPL team records signals from Mars on a daily basis and then scans the recording for Opportunity transmissions.

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. NASA warns that the six-wheeler is currently like a comatose patient and that there’s a real possibility it might not be the same as before.

The discharge of the batteries might have been so severe that they might not be able to store as much power as before, affecting the rover operational capabilities.

NASA engineers will have to run a series of diagnostics as soon as they contact the rover, and even make the machine take pictures of itself to determine its physical status. Depending on this data, they will decide whether to attempt a full recovery of opportunity or not.

In the meanwhile, NASA is asking all those interested in the fate of a rover to send it some best wishes postcards, available at the following link.
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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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