NASA starts 45-day clock to contact Mars Rover Opportunity as dust storm wanes


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The planet-enveloping mud storm on Mars has settled sufficient for NASA to begin a 45-day active-listening interval by which the company hopes to make contact with the rover Alternative after three months of silence, NASA introduced yesterday (Sept. 11).

So, for the subsequent 45 days, NASA engineers will nudge the spacecraft a number of occasions a day, relatively than the 3 times every week that had been the process. That schedule relies on the hope that the rover is now harvesting sufficient solar energy to obtain and reply to instructions. On this “active-listening” process, NASA will ship directions that power the rover to create a sign at a selected frequency whether it is powered up and not severely broken.

If the rover has not but made contact when these 45 days have ended, NASA should decide how you can proceed. In a press release launched Aug. 30, the company mentioned it will proceed to hear passively for the rover till the top of January. [Mars Dust Storm 2018: What It Means for Opportunity Rover]

The brand new stage of the restoration plan was triggered when NASA made two consecutive measurements of atmospheric opacity, referred to as tau, of lower than 1.5. When Alternative first misplaced contact with Earth, that measurement was above 10. The company hopes that now that the mud is settling out of the Martian skies, the rover’s photo voltaic panels will be capable to efficiently cost so the can robotic re-establish contact with Earth.

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When the plan was introduced, some scientists affiliated with the mission expressed concern that pegging this active-listening interval to the atmospheric opacity would begin the clock on Alternative too quickly.

That is as a result of all that mud merely falls down, which suggests there’s nothing to cease it from falling onto the rover’s photo voltaic panels. And if the issue is mud blocking the photo voltaic panels from charging, it would not matter whether or not the mud is floating within the air or resting on the panels. Mars has seasonal climate patterns referred to as mud devils that would clear that mud away, however these will not start till November — by which level, the 45 days of energetic outreach may have ended.

The rover has been exploring the floor of Mars since 2004, far outlasting its unique mission timeline of 90 Martian days (a Martian day is about 40 minutes longer than a terrestrial one). However the engineers and scientists who management the rover have not heard a peep from Alternative since June 10.

They hope the robotic is merely hibernating, ready for the mud to settle. Both approach, the subsequent 45 days could also be the perfect probability Alternative has left.

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