NASA’s Mars Opportunity rover, $400M spacecraft, missing in Martian dust storm for 2 months


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For over two months, there was no signal of NASA’s Mars Alternative rover. The car-sized area machine, value a whopping $400 million, signed offline because it disappeared inside an enormous Martian mud storm on June 10.

A workforce of scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. have been eagerly listening for indicators of life from the rover. Thus far, all they’ve heard is silence.

However because the mud begins to settle, the workforce is hopeful Alternative will awaken.


“For the reason that final contact with the rover … Alternative has seemingly skilled a low-power fault and maybe, a mission clock fault and now an up-loss fault,” NASA defined in a July 31 weblog put up.

The Alternative rover made a number of groundbreaking discoveries all through its roughly 15-year journey on the Purple Planet. Since leaving Earth on July 7, 2003, the analysis car has detected indicators of water, explored the insides of two craters and accomplished a marathon — the primary car to take action on one other planet.

A digital model of the Opportunity rover added to a real image of the inside of Endurance Crater on Mars -- n earlier by Opportunity itself -- shows what the explorer would look like to a Martian observer.

NASA/U. Cornell/JPL

 (NASA launched the Alternative rover to the Purple Planet on July 7, 2003.)

However Alternative’s journey hasn’t at all times been a clean one.

In 2005, the rover misplaced the usage of considered one of its entrance wheels and received caught in a thick pile of sand for about 5 weeks, based on When it lastly managed to maneuver, it ran right into a sand dune. In 2007, a mud storm hit and reportedly lower the spacecraft’s energy to “dangerously low ranges.” A month later, it turned again on and started exploring the Victoria Crater.

Regardless of its obstacles, the Alternative has at all times managed to drag by means of. However this time, researchers aren’t positive what is going to occur.


“The storm is among the most intense ever noticed on the Purple Planet,” NASA mentioned in early June. “As of June 10, it lined greater than 15.eight million sq. miles (41 million sq. kilometers) —concerning the space of North America and Russia mixed. It has blocked out a lot daylight, it has successfully turned day into night time for Alternative, which is positioned close to the middle of the storm, inside Mars’ Perseverance Valley.”

Now, researchers are enjoying the ready recreation.

The federal government area company mentioned these in command of the Alternative will try communication with the car as much as 3 times every week, hoping it should ultimately exit sleep mode. Nonetheless, NASA says researchers do not count on it to get up “till there was a big discount within the atmospheric opacity over the rover website.”

Michael Staab, an engineer at JPL, mentioned Alternative’s silence is regarding, including that there is nonetheless quite a lot of work to be performed.

“Morale has been just a little shaky,” Staab instructed “That is the primary time she [Opportunity] has stopped speaking to us and never resumed communication once we anticipated.”

Within the meantime, researchers are attempting to remain optimistic, making a Mars-themed Spotify playlist — that includes “Wake Me Up Earlier than You Go-Go” by Wham!, “Rocket Man” by Elton John, amongst others — and an workplace pool to assist cross the time.

“It may take weeks — hopefully not months,” Staab instructed the positioning. “I want we had one thing to share; I want we had excellent news. However we preserve listening daily.”

NASA’s $2.5 billion Curiosity rover continues to be in good condition, although. The car celebrated its sixth anniversary on Mars on Aug. 5.

Jennifer Earl is an search engine marketing editor for Fox Information. Observe her on Twitter @jenearlyspeakin.

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