NASA Confronts Fears That Opportunity Rover May Be 'Dead' With Renewed Attempts to Contact

Monday, 28 January 2019 - 3:12PM
Mars
Science News
Monday, 28 January 2019 - 3:12PM
NASA Confronts Fears That Opportunity Rover May Be 'Dead' With Renewed Attempts to Contact
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NASA/JPL/Cornell University, Maas Digital LLC
After losing contact with the $400 million Opportunity rover following a dust storm on Mars, NASA announced that it is planning a renewed attempt to send messages commanding the exploration vehicle to respond. In a press release issued on Friday, John Callas, project manager for Opportunity at JPL, described the revitalized strategies to reach the non-responsive device. "We have and will continue to use multiple techniques in our attempts to contact the rover," Callas said. "These new command strategies are in addition to the 'sweep and beep' commands we have been transmitting up to the rover since September." The "sweep and beep" commands attempt to coax the rover into responding to the bombardment of signals with a beep. 


NASA is attempting to wake the rover, whose solar-powered battery may have been left dead after a dust storm covered its photoelectric cells, before the onset of Mars' southern winter, which will bring low temperatures that could render the Opportunity's battery and electronics completely inert. Callas described the frustrations experienced since the rover went silent last summer. "Over the past seven months we have attempted to contact Opportunity over 600 times," Callas said. "While we have not heard back from the rover and the probability that we ever will is decreasing each day, we plan to continue to pursue every logical solution that could put us back in touch."


The signals will be sent over the next few weeks. Should the team receive a beep in response, they may plan a recovery effort, though the details of that were not specified. Should the rover remain silent, the project engineers will move forward according to protocols dictated by the Mars Program Office at JPL and NASA Headquarters.

The Opportunity rover first landed on the planet in 2004.

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