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Space & Astronomy

Concerns grow as Opportunity remains silent

By T.K. Randall
August 15, 2018 · Comment icon 17 comments

Could this be the end for the Opportunity rover ? Image Credit: NASA
It is looking increasingly likely that the recent Martian dust storm may have silenced the rover for good.
Opportunity is certainly no stranger to the extreme weather conditions that exist on the Red Planet having been trundling across its dusty surface for almost 15 years.

Sadly, however, the most recent dust storm may have been too much for even it to handle.

Back in May, NASA shifted Opportunity into low-power mode to help it weather the storm, but now, several months later, the space agency has been struggling to wake the rover up again.

The last time it checked in, it reported dangerously low temperatures. The battery in particular, which needs to be kept warm to prevent damage, is highly vulnerable to the freezing conditions on Mars.
Its solar panels may also be covered in so much dust that it cannot get the power it needs to wake up.

"This is the first time she has stopped talking to us and not resumed communication when we expected," said Michael Staab of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

On the plus side, it is possible that the rover's solar panels may only be partially covered in dust and that it is simply taking longer to recharge than expected.

The longer it takes to signal back however, the less likely it is to ever do so.

Source: Extreme Tech | Comments (17)




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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #8 Posted by fred_mc 6 years ago
Well, when a dust storm is approaching, you have to make sure that there is enough power in the battery before entering hibernation mode, so that the wipers will work after waking up from hibernation mode.
Comment icon #9 Posted by fred_mc 6 years ago
Yes, but the wipers are supposed to be used extremely rarely, like after a dust storm. You could also have another mechanism than wipers to clean the solar panels, like blowing air on the panels to get rid of the dust.
Comment icon #10 Posted by Bunzilla 6 years ago
The Mars Rovers were... Erm. Considerably more expensive than a car though, to be fair. :P I had the same thoughts after one of the first dust storms they weathered; why doesn't they have a way to cover and or clean their solar panels? That seems like it'd be a pretty important feature to have on such a dusty planet prone to dust storms. I would say either allowing a rover to tilt its solar panels to let the dust slide off (which would have the added benefit of letting it tilt them to catch more sun), or blow them off. Maybe both. And I wonder if they insulated the batteries? It would be a sha... [More]
Comment icon #11 Posted by pallidin 6 years ago
IF it is over, it's been a good ride, dear rover. Bravo on your extraordinarily extended mission. My God, I'm talking like it was my pet dog. 
Comment icon #12 Posted by pallidin 6 years ago
It just needs a belly rub...
Comment icon #13 Posted by L.A.T.1961 6 years ago
It just needs some encouragement and positive vibes.  
Comment icon #14 Posted by paperdyer 6 years ago
I'm sorry.  Was it only driven to church on Sundays?
Comment icon #15 Posted by paperdyer 6 years ago
Hopefully its run isn't over. But this brings to mind a new business opportunity.  Portable Rover washers which go to the Rover when it can't come to the washer. Of course a waster source could be an issue. Maybe we can just air blast the sand off.
Comment icon #16 Posted by South Alabam 6 years ago
It was only supposed to last 3 months, and wind self cleaned the dust off rover.
Comment icon #17 Posted by pallidin 6 years ago
I'm crying. It's dieing. I've bonded with that thing. It kept going and going and going. A real trooper. This hurts. Oh for God's sake, what is wrong with me?! Just a hunk of mobile composites controlled from Earth via orbiter. But, but, it had feelings. If it had a speaker it would be saying "Mommy, Daddy!!!" So heart-wrenching. Damn, I'm messed-up.    


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