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NASA's Opportunity rover to get some sun as Mars dust storm wanes

NASA's Opportunity rover to get some sun as Mars dust storm wanes

Former rover engineers like Maxwell have argued that the active listening phase should run through the end of the year, covering the portion of the Martian year where dust devils could sweep dust off the rover's solar panels, as has happened in the past. However, the site that Opportunity now occupies is no longer engulfed by the planet-encircling dust storm that has plagued Mars since late May.

"The sun is breaking by the haze over Perseverance Valley, and rapidly there might be ample daylight hours contemporary that Different needs to be capable of recharge its batteries", John Callas, Different project supervisor at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, stated in a assertion. The impact of this latest storm on Opportunity's systems is unknown but could have resulted in reduced energy production, diminished battery performance, or other unforeseen damage that could make it hard for the rover to fully return online.

"The dust haze produced by the Martian global dust storm of 2018 is one of the most extensive on record", said MRO scientist Rich Zurek.

"Images of the Opportunity site have shown no active dust storm for some time within 3,000 kilometres (or 1,900 miles) of the rover site".

The team will continue to passively listen to the rover for several months after the soft deadline passes though, because there's a chance that the dust that has settled on Opportunity's solar panels will be whisked off by a Martian cleaning crew known as a "dust devil".

Stalled in Perseverance Valley, the rover went into shutdown partly to protect itself from the dust storm and also because its power source as about to disappear.

The rover's last communication with Earth was received on June 10, and Opportunity's current health is unknown, Nasa said.

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"If we perform now not hear attend after forty five days, the team might be forced to develop that the sun-blocking mud and the Martian frosty enjoy conspired to cause some kind of fault from which the rover will extra than likely now not obtain successfully", Callas stated. Back in 2016, Opportunity was visited by one such whirlwind, which are common on the Red Planet.

It is becoming more and more obvious that despite the now more clear skies, Opportunity is unable to power back up. We'll see if it can add a planet-wide dust storm to the list.

The solar-powered Opportunity hasn't made a peep since June 10, when a worsening dust storm plunged the rover's environs - a spot on the rim of the 14-mile-wide (22 kilometers) Endeavour Crater called Perseverance Valley - into deep darkness. Its 256-megabyte flash memory no longer works and it front steering gave out back in June 2017. The rovers were created to travel about 1,000 yards, and Opportunity has logged more than 28 miles.

Those now working on the Opportunity mission are also disappointed and surprised by the 45-day limit to listening efforts, according to project sources not authorized to speak on the record.

However, "there is reason to be optimistic, " says NASA, as the storm appears to be weakening, meaning that sunlight may have time to peak through the dust and give the rover a much-needed boost. When can we expect to hear from it again?

Stay tuned to SpaceFlight Insider as we wait for a response from our rover.

Updates on the dust storm and tau can be found here.