NASA has said on August 30 that they will wait for the skies to clear and start actively listening for their solar-powered rover Opportunity. However, the massive dust storm has been silent for more than four months, and the skies have cleared. The rover still hasn’t responded to the team’s attempts of reconnecting.
According to John Callas, Opportunity project manager, the rover has a deadline:
“If we do not hear back after 45 days, the team will be forced to conclude that the sun-blocking dust and the Martian cold have conspired to cause some type of fault from which the rover will more than likely not recover.”
For example, because of the loss of solar power, the rover’s batteries could have been damaged, rendering the vehicle useless:
“The batteries may be getting too cold, and that may be too much for the little rover that could,” said Lori Glaze, the NASA’s Director of the planetary branch.
Nonetheless, the team will not completely give up on the old rover yet. They will stop attempts of active listening soon but continue with a stage of passive listening.
The active listening effort has a few more days of calling the rover and waking it up, added Lori:
“We intend to continue to call the Opportunity on a daily basis for at least a week or two.”
The Wake-up Song and NASA’s InSight
Each day, NASA plays a traditional “wake-up song.” Perhaps Opportunity will wake up when it hears its favorite song. After the following weeks of active listening, Opportunity team will start with the passive listening to the radio just in case the sleepy rover tries to call home.
Lori explained that the campaign on communication with the old rover would end as they prepare to land InSight, which should reach the Red Planet’s atmosphere on 26 November.
Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere