Mars Opportunity rover will have 45 days to phone home

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The probe sends data back to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

But with the storm slowly dissipating over Perseverance Valley, enough sunlight could soon reach the rover to waken it from its slumber.

Let's break down what's happening right now and the plan moving forward.

Once the dust clears, the rover will have 45 days to get in touch with NASA before the space agency stops actively trying to ping the rover.

The scientists and engineers have been known to anthropomorphise the Mars rovers and some have been working with Opportunity, which has been on Mars since 2004, for years. "You have to be kidding me". The website later collated a Spotify playlist of the songs that NASA are playing to the Rover in this most long-distance of serenades.

"The Sun is breaking through the haze over Perseverance Valley, and soon there will be enough sunlight present that Opportunity should be able to recharge its batteries", John Callas, Opportunity project manager at JPL, said in a statement.

In an August 30 statement, NASA said it would begin a 45-day campaign of active efforts to restore communications with Opportunity once skies above the rover cleared to a sufficient level. If the team doesn't hear back from Opportunity during that period of time, the space agency will assume that something has impacted the rover in a way that prevents its recovery. Choose from among several handsome Mars photos, write a brief message and send it up to Opportunity to show your support. Photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

The rover's last communication with Earth was received June 10, and Opportunity's current health is unknown. "The dust haze produced by the Martian global dust storm of 2018 is one of the most extensive on record, but all indications are it is finally coming to a close", said Rich Zurek, project scientist for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been monitoring the storm.

"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". He said that JPL attempted "active listening" of Spirit, the twin of Opportunity, for 10 months in 2010 and 2011 when that rover stopped transmitting before giving up.

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Reluctantly, I downloaded the app and he called me on that app a few minutes later, ' she wrote, according to the Atlantic .

The team managing Opportunity rover has already started preparing for the dust storm's end. That effort addresses "the unlikely chance that there is a large amount of dust sitting on the solar arrays that is blocking the sun's energy", Callas said.

Could a "dust devil" revive the Mars rover?

For example, a Martian dust devil could come along, blowing the dust off the rover's solar arrays.

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 chances are small that dust accumulation would be the root cause of Opportunity's lack of communication. But a soft deadline to hear back from the silent rover has been imposed by mission managers.

And even though it is hobbled, having lost the use of its front steering and 256MB flash memory, not everyone is ready to give up so fast.

Yet the rover has proven far more durable than scientists ever hoped. Both rovers were created to operate for just 90 days, however, and exceeded expectations. Instead, it has logged more than 45 kilometres.

Callas remains cautiously optimistic. "We're pulling for our tenacious rover to drag her feet from the fireplace one additional time".

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