Although NASA fears the Opportunity Rover might be stuck on the red planet forever, the Agency still does not want to give up hopes that the rover might wake and finally phone home.
A massive dust storm on Mars caused the rover to lose contact with Earth and things have not looked good since then. Opportunity, which touched down on the red planet in January 2004, contacted Earth for the last time on June 10.
A powerful dust storm that spread across the planet blocked the sun and deprived the rover of the solar energy it feeds on, putting it in low power mode, and causing the rover to become unresponsive.
In August of this year, NASA gave Opportunity, the most loving little Mars rover out there, 45 days to phone home.
That time frame has come and gone, and NASA fears the rover may not phone back ever, although there still hopes out there that the rover will spring back to life.
But NASA has once again made the call to not abandon hope, and wait for weather conditions on Mars to maybe help the rover send signals home.
In mid-October, the Space Agency explained mission specialists were hopeful strengthening winds on Mars would blow away the dust that may be interfering with Opportunity’s ability to get back in contact.
“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,” explained NASA.
“The team remains hopeful that some dust clearing may result in hearing from the rover in this period.”
Mission members of Opportunity remain hopeful that the rover will come back to life, which is why NASA has decided to wait for the rover to signal back, until January 2019 at least.
An update posted by the agency on October 29, 2018 reads:
“After a review of the progress of the listening campaign, NASA will continue its current strategy for attempting to make contact with the Opportunity rover for the foreseeable future.”
“Winds could increase in the next few months at Opportunity’s location on Mars, resulting in dust being blown off the rover’s solar panels. The agency will reassess the situation in the January 2019 time frame.”
NASA believes how Martian winds could increase in the next few months at Opportunity’s location, which could help clean the rover and remove any dust that is preventing the rover’s solar panels to charge.
Mission specialists remain hopeful the rover will ping back any wad. In fact, the active listening effort continues, with rover mission controllers following a tradition similar to previous NASA human spaceflight missions by playing a “wake-up song” each day.
Michael Staab, NASA system’s engineer for Opportunity and Spirit posted on Twitter: We’ve reached that time on Mars again. Tonight’s @MarsRovers wake-up song is “I Can See For Miles” by @TheWho. Catch our sweep and beep commanding activity live at https://eyes.jpl.nasa.gov/dsn/dsn.html with DSS-25.
We’ve reached that time on Mars again. Tonight’s @MarsRovers wake-up song is “I Can See For Miles” by @TheWho. Catch our sweep and beep commanding activity live at https://t.co/IHTMhBIox0 with DSS-25. pic.twitter.com/xSTC0tUkbj
— Michael Staab (@AstroStaab) October 21, 2018