Christmas Miracle? NASA Says They Haven't Given Up Hope for the Opportunity Rover Yet

Tuesday, 11 December 2018 - 11:20AM
NASA
Mars
Technology
Tuesday, 11 December 2018 - 11:20AM
Christmas Miracle? NASA Says They Haven't Given Up Hope for the Opportunity Rover Yet
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Back in August, we created a little musical playlist in tribute to NASA's Opportunity Rover, which became unresponsive following a massive dust storm on the Red Planet. Since that June storm, Opportunity's controllers started playing music in their control room to encourage the rover to wake up from sleep mode, which was apparently triggered when Martian dust covered its solar panels and deprived the rover of power. Now, six months later, Ray Arvidson, Opportunity's Deputy Principal Investigator, has announced that they're still holding out hope that the rover will become active again.

"Still holding onto a sliver of hope that an almost 15-year-old rover living under extreme conditions for a very long time will wake up and talk to us," he said. "We will continue to actively try and communicate with Opportunity at least through January."

In the meantime, Arvidson and his team and drafting new plans for Opportunity, should it miraculously wake up. According to Arvidson: "We don't want to be caught off-guard with no proposal and a revitalized rover coming back online, say in late January. The windy season is just beginning, so it may happen."

The mention of the 'windy season' is a reference to the possibility that high Martian winds may dislodge dust from the rover's solar panels, potentially allowing it to charge its batteries again. It would be a stunning turnaround for NASA's longest-running rover, whose original mission was only planned to last 90 days.

According to TimeOpportunity was in "exceptionally good condition" before this latest dust storm, except for a malfunctioning robotic arm. Even the director of NASA's Mars exploration program, Jim Watzin, admitted Opportunity had a good, long run: "Keep in mind, we're talking about a rover that's been working at Mars, hanging in there, for 15 years and designed just for 90 days. It just doesn't get any better than that."
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