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NASA’s Opportunity Rover still unresponsive, may “die” if not awakened


Retraction: when first writing this article, I reported that the Rover was Curiosity, while in reality, it’s the Opportunity, I apologize for any confusion that this may have caused.

After more than 6 months since the martian dust-storm that knocked it out, and countless attempts to bring him back online, the famous Mars Opportunity Rover could be at the end of it’s six year voyage, for winter is coming to Mars, and if the gripping cold reaches Rover in an unpowered state, it will cause irreparable damage to the machine. This is the same scenario as the one in 2010, in which NASA lost the Opportunity’s brother, Spirit.

The Opportunity Rover was shut down on June 10th of last year during a dust storm that  covered a full quarter of the red planet, said storm blotted out any sunlight that could have reached to the solar panels of the explorer,  forcing it to go into a state of hibernation, at the time, this wasn’t much cause for concern for the scientists and engineers at NASA, who were expecting a response only after the sky was cleared, but even after it did, all attempts to reach out to Rover have ended in failure, and they are now doubling their efforts to rescue the Opportunity rover.

Last Friday, NASA started transmitting a new series of commands, made especially to identify the exact problem that ails the Rover and get him to respond to NASA with a “Beep”, these commands will be broadcasted during the coming weeks. The commands are looking for three specific scenarios, a failure in its primary X-band radio, used for contacting Earth; a failure in both primary and secondary x-band radio; or an issue with its internal clock, which was meant to pull it out of hibernation.

“We have and will continue to use multiple techniques in our attempts to contact the rover,” said John Callas, project manager for Opportunity at JPL. “These new command strategies are in addition to the ‘sweep and beep’ commands we have been transmitting up to the rover since September.”

“Over the past seven months we have attempted to contact Opportunity over 600 times,” said Callas. “While we have not heard back from the rover and the probability that we ever will is decreasing each day, we plan to continue to pursue every logical solution that could put us back in touch.”

The Opportunity Rover started it’s mission back in January of 2004 along with its brother, spirit, and were expected to travel for only 90 days, however, due to the efforts and determination of the team at NASA and in a way, of the machine itself, all expectations were defied, and the explorer continues it’s adventures to this day, studying the red planet and reporting it’s findings back to Earth, and it’s our hope that this explorer awakens and continues its mission.

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