It’s been months aback NASA engineers accept heard from the sleeping Opportunity rover, which powered bottomward afterwards accepting bent in a massive dust storm on Mars that blocked its apparent from the Sun. But all achievement isn’t yet lost, as the amplitude bureau said in an amend Thursday that a advancing airy division on the Red Planet could advice bright dust believed to be obstructing Opportunity’s solar panels.
“A airy aeon on Mars—known to Opportunity’s aggregation as “dust-clearing season”—occurs in the November-to-January time anatomy and has helped apple-pie the rover’s panels in the past,” NASA said.
In the meantime, engineers with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)—which oversees the 14-year-old rover’s operations—are accretion the cardinal of commands to Opportunity and alert for any calls home in the accident that it is still operational.
Engineers aftermost heard from the departer on June 10 while it was alive in Mars’ Perseverance Valley. NASA said it believes the all-around dust storm that ailing in June may accept resulted in a band of dust on the rover’s solar panels, blocking the necessarily sunlight it needs to recharge. At the time, NASA was affected but to put Opportunity into dawdling approach in adjustment to bottle any actual ability until afterwards the storm dissipated.
“No one can acquaint aloof how abundant dust has been deposited on its panels,” the amplitude bureau said in its amend this week, but it added that its aggregation charcoal hopeful.
Last month, the HiRISE camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) spotted the sleeping departer on the Red Planet’s surface, advertence that it hadn’t been absolutely active by dust and alms a blink of achievement that sunlight would be able to ability its solar panels already the storm cleared.
“The Sun is breaking through the brume over Perseverance Valley, and anon there will be abundant sunlight present that Opportunity should be able to recharge its batteries,” John Callas, Opportunity activity administrator at JPL, said in a account aftermost month. “When the tau akin [a admeasurement of the bulk of chapped amount in the Martian sky] dips beneath 1.5, we will activate a aeon of actively attempting to acquaint with the departer by sending it commands via the antennas of NASA’s Deep Amplitude Network. Assuming that we apprehend aback from Opportunity, we will activate the action of acute its cachet and bringing it aback online.”
The Opportunity departer has far, far outlived its accepted lifetime of 90 Martian days. Launched in 2003 with its accompanying Spirit as allotment of NASA’s Mars Exploration Departer (MER) mission, the golf-cart-sized apprentice is advancing 15 years on the Red Planet.
Here’s to acquisitive this appreciably airy little departer will buzz home soon.
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