Rover Call Home! JPL Engineers Work to Learn Opportunity Rover's Fate

Published : Friday, October 12, 2018 | 7:04 AM

Opportunity's panoramic camera (Pancam) took the component images for this view from a position outside Endeavor Crater during the span of June 7 to June 19, 2017. Toward the right side of this scene is a broad notch in the crest of the western rim of crater. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ.

Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory are trying to find out if Opportunity rover is still operational after a dust storm on Mars in May.

JPL engineers are using a combination of listening and commanding methods in case Opportunity is functioning. Engineers said it’s possible that a layer of dust deposited on the rover’s solar panels by the recent global dust storm is blocking sunlight that could recharge its batteries. Engineers last heard from Opportunity in June.

“The Sun is breaking through the haze over Perseverance Valley, and soon there will be enough sunlight present that Opportunity should be able to recharge its batteries,” John Callas, Opportunity project manager in Pasadena at JPL, said. …“Assuming that we hear back from Opportunity, we will begin the process of discerning its status and bringing it back online.”

A windy period on Mars — known to Opportunity’s team as “dust-clearing season” — occurs in the November-to-January time frame and has helped clean the rover’s panels in the past. Engineers are hoping to hear from Opportunity during the next few months.

Opportunity has exceeded its expected lifespan many times over. The rover has lasted nearly 15 years despite predictions it would only last 90 days.

A planet-encircling dust storm on Mars, which was first detected May 30 and halted operations for the Opportunity rover, continues to lessen.

Engineers believe clearing skies over Opportunity’s resting spot in Mars’ Perseverance Valley will soon receive enough sunlight to automatically initiate recovery procedures — if the Rover is able to do so.

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