NASA goes all in to communicate with lost Opportunity Rover

NASA Opportunity Rover

NASA has come up with a last ditch effort to communicate with the lost Opportunity Rover.  The rover went silent seven months ago when it was enveloped in an historic global dust storm which covered much of  Mars surface.  In the darkness of the dust storm, Opportunity’s solar panels could not generate enough power to continue operation.

NASA announced Friday that it has sent over 600 commands to Opportunity to try to address problems which could have started with the mission clock fault on the rover, in addition to the low power fault and possibly others. The group of engineers are “continuing to listen for the rover over a broad range of times, frequencies and polarizations”, according to Friday’s press release.  The new commands will go out for the next several weeks.

This week is an anniversasry of sorts for the Opportunity Rover.  Fifteen years ago this week,  Opportunity and it’s twin Rover, Spirit landed on Mars.  Although they were only expected to last for 90 Martian days (40 minutes longer than our days) they lasted much longer than that.  Spirit lasted until 2009, when it became stuck in a sand trap, and Opportunity continued until June 10, 2018. Although only expected to move less than 1000 feet, Opportunity rolled approximately 29 miles. Both Rovers performed groundbreaking experiments which suggested that water may have been on the surface of Mars.

The engineers hope that seasonal storms on Mars will clear away dust that has built up on Opportunity’s solar panels, making it possible to receive it’s new commands and start working again.

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