Opportunity Rover still silent on Mars, 4 months after epic dust storm

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The Alternative rover’s silent stretch on Mars has now reached 4 months.

Alternative hasn’t made a peep since June 10. Round that point, a growing mud storm shrouded its environs in darkness, stopping the solar-powered rover from harvesting sufficient daylight to recharge its batteries.

The Martian mud storm grew to envelop the complete planet 10 days later. However by late July the maelstrom was abating, and the sky continued to clear over the next weeks. By Sept. 11, circumstances close to Alternative’s locale — a valley on the rim of the 14-mile-wide (22 kilometers) Endeavour Crater — had been ok that the rover staff ramped up its hailing efforts, kicking off a 45-day “lively listening” marketing campaign. [Mars Dust Storm 2018: What It Means for Opportunity Rover]

That marketing campaign is now two-thirds over, and there is nonetheless been nothing from the six-wheeled robotic. If the clock runs out on Alternative, NASA will reassess its restoration plans and efforts, company officers have mentioned. However engineers and technicians will proceed listening for a ping from Alternative in a extra passive mode at the very least via January, mission managers have mentioned.

The venerable rover could also be lifeless, achieved in by a mix of the darkness and the bitter Martian chilly. With none energy, in spite of everything, Alternative can not run its onboard heaters. However there’s nonetheless hope, even at this comparatively late date.

“It is doable layer of mud deposited on the rover’s photo voltaic panels by the latest international mud storm is obstructing daylight that would recharge its batteries. Nobody can inform simply how a lot mud has been deposited on its panels,” NASA officers wrote in an replace yesterday (Oct. 11).

“A windy interval on Mars — identified to Alternative’s staff as “dust-clearing season” — happens within the November-to-January timeframe and has helped clear the rover’s panels prior to now,” they added. “The staff stays hopeful that some mud clearing could lead to listening to from the rover on this interval.”

Alternative landed on Mars in January 2004, three weeks after its twin, Spirit, touched down in a special a part of the Pink Planet. Each robots discovered plenty of proof that liquid water flowed throughout the floor of historical Mars.

Spirit and Alternative had been designed to roam for 3 months, however each rovers floor that guarantee into the pink mud. Spirit wasn’t declared lifeless till 2011, and Alternative was getting alongside simply wonderful till the mud storm hit.

NASA’s different lively Mars rover, Curiosity, depends on nuclear energy and was subsequently comparatively unaffected by the storm.

Initially printed on House.com.

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