The Opportunity Rover has not made contact with NASA since June 10 after a global Mars dust storm. The rover team at Jet Propulsion Laboratory are worried this may be the end of the road for this Martian rover.
Opportunity, a rover designed to explore the Martian landscape to look for water, landed in late January 2004 on Mars. Opportunity has lasted fourteen years longer than the initial mission timeline. It has been roaming the Red Planet in search of water and has discovered many amazing things since then.
On May 30th, NASA discovered that there was a huge, global dust storm on Mars. This is a problem because Opportunity is solar powered, and the dust blocked out the sunlight. NASA has not been able to communicate with or get a signal from Opportunity since June 10.
NASA is waiting for the dust levels in the sky to clear. Then, they will be able to send commands and signals to Opportunity to try to get it to respond because the dust will not block the signals. Scientists at NASA believe that Opportunity’s mission clock could have failed, or it could have experienced a fault because of low-power. This could be why it hasn’t been sending or responding to signals for the last three months.
While many people are expecting the rover to respond to NASA’s signals sent by the Deep Space Network, not everyone believes the rover will pull through.
Carly Nuakoh stated, “I think that the rover is present; however, it’s exceeded its functional expectations and abilities, and maybe that’s due to dust storms and other storms on Mars that we are not yet fully aware of.”
Opportunity has met its goal by discovering an area in an outcropping of rock that shows past evidence of water. This was the main thing NASA was trying to accomplish with this mission to Mars. Then, in 2013, it discovered a rock, called “Esperance”, that had clay minerals which could only be produced by water. All these discoveries have made this recent struggle that more upsetting.
When asked what the rover team at Jet Propulsion Laboratory must be feeling about all of this, Mr. Richard Parry, a teacher at Oakdale High School, shared his thoughts: “To have something there for thirteen years and all of a sudden just stop one day- I’m sure it’s heartbreaking for them.”
NASA will continue to send signals to Opportunity for months to come or until they receive a response from the rover. They are hoping to get a signal back, but there is a possibility that the rover is too damaged to continue. If you would like to send the rover your good wishes and encouragement, you can send it a postcard. Visit this URL https://mars.nasa.gov/participate/postcard/opportunity-rover/#Step-1.
Picture source: http://en.es-static.us/upl/2018/08/opportunity-rover-mars-artist-2-e1534932908140.jpg