NASA hopes Opportunity will ‘phone home’ as Mars dust storm settles
NASA’s Opportunity rover remains lost more than two months after a massive Martian dust storm covered the entire planet, but NASA recently said hope may be on the horizon as the sky clears.
NASA believes 15-year-old rover, affectionately nicknamed “Oppy,” went into a low-power mode when the storm surged across Mars because of the lack of sunlight.
The space center is optimistic the batteries survived the storm, but nothing is certain until Opportunity can recharge its batteries.
As of Aug. 14, the level of darkness was still slightly too high for the solar system to start up. When that happens, the rover should be able to “phone home” to Earth.
However, it is possible Opportunity suffered two other malfunctions during the storm, including a “uploss fault” which could mean communication equipment aren’t functioning properly.
Curiosity, the only other active rover on Mars, remains operational because of its nuclear-powered battery.
You’re a survivor, you’re not gonna give up.Hang in there, Oppy! Here’s how the @MarsRovers team will try to reach her now that this dust storm is starting to calm down: https://t.co/BwDJI5PYSL pic.twitter.com/LBMvIxAggh Curiosity Rover (@MarsCuriosity) August 17, 2018
NASA is using its Deep Space Network of probes between Mars and Earth to send “wake-up signals” to the lonely rover and analyze any other radio signals for Opportunity’s signature.
Despite NASA’s optimism that Opportunity will eventually call home, they warn that the rover may never work the same again.
“The rover’s batteries could have discharged so much power and stayed inactive so long that their capacity is reduced,” a fact sheet read. “If those batteries can’t hold as much charge, it could affect the rover’s continued operations.”