In July 2018 the Opportunity rover entered hibernation mode after a global dust storm engulfed Mars. NASA has been trying to track down the rover in the last five months and it will continue to do so for a while.
The search has an active and a passive stage. The active stage should have ended after 45 days but it has been extended until January 2019 as the dust should settle in the following months. Active listening in this timeframe should increase the chances of finding the rover as the sunrays will finally reach the solar panels and power it up.
A major dust storm started to form in May. The storm dramatically increased as time passed and it was acknowledged as the most intense storm since researchers started to study the Red Planet. The Curiosity Rovers features a nuclear power system and has functioned without problems but Opportunity was forced to enter the hibernation mode after the storm cut out the solar energy it needs. Some researchers believe that the damage it sustained during the storm could have rendered the rover unusable but that remains to be seen.
During the active stage NASA sends a signal aimed to trigger a wake-up and the passive stage implies the wait for a signal that is sent by the rover. No signs were spotted but NASA hopes that it will succeed soon. The solar panels could be covered in dust, forcing the rover to remain offline. As the dust settles, powerful winds could remove the dust.
Opportunity is particularly important for NASA as it has become an emblem. The rover surpassed all expectations as it lead to important discoveries. While the initial plan implied a 90-day lifespan the rover continued to work for over fourteen years.
Some voices criticized the decision, claiming that NASA could have done more for the Hubble and Chandra telescopes as their missions have been officially ended.
It remains to be seen if Opportunity will be found in the following months.
Lena Pierce is a reporter for Great Lakes Ledger. After graduating from Ryerson In Toronto, Lena got an internship at CBC radio in Calgary. Lena was also a beat reporter for the Calgary Flames. Lena mostly cover sports and community events. Contact Lena here.