NASA remains optimistic about reconnecting with the Mars Opportunity Rover that has been silent for more than two months because of a global dust storm that envelops the red planet, even though the robotic explorer's operations are expected to be affected.
Because the dust storm is "decaying" – meaning more dust falls out of the atmosphere than being thrown back – the sky light can soon be sufficiently bright to charge the rover and try to "call home", NASA said. in a statement.
The American space agency had carried out various investigations into the condition of robber batteries before the storm and the temperatures at the site.
Because the batteries were relatively healthy before the storm, there is probably not too much decline, according to NASA.
Dust storms tend to heat the environment. The rover should have stayed warm enough to survive, said the team that notes that they still have reasons to be optimistic.
Dust storms on Mars prevent sunlight from reaching the surface, increasing the level of a measurement called "tau". The higher the tau, the less sunlight is available; the last tau measured by Opportunity was 10.8 on 10 June. To compare, an average tau for its location on Mars is usually 0.5.
Engineers predict that Opportunity needs a tau of less than 2.0 before the solar-powered rover can recharge its batteries.
A wide-angle camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will look for surface features that become visible when the sky becomes clear. That will help scientists to estimate the tau.
Several times a week, engineers use NASA's Deep Space Network, which communicates between planetary probes and the earth, to try to talk to Opportunity.
The massive DSN antennas ping the rover during scheduled "wake-up" times and then search for signals sent from Opportunity.
In addition, the radio science of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory uses special equipment on DSN antennas that can detect a wider frequency range.
Every day they register every radio signal from Mars during most of the rover's daylight hours and then search the recordings for the "voice" of Opportunity.
When Opportunity encounters a problem, it can use so-called & # 39; error modes & # 39; where it automatically takes action to maintain its health. Engineers prepare for different error modes when they hear back from Opportunity.
After the first time engineers hear something of Opportunity, there may be a delay of a few weeks before the rover takes the time to fully recover.
It may take several communication sessions before technicians have enough information to take action, NASA said.
The first thing you need to do is learn more about the state of the robber. The Opportunity team will ask for a history of the battery of the rover and solar cells and their temperature.
If the clock has lost time, it will be reset. The robber took photos of himself to see if dust could be caked on sensitive parts and to test actuators to see if dust was sliding in and affecting the joints.
Once they have collected all these data, the team would hold a poll about whether they are ready to perform a full recovery.
Even if engineers hear back from Opportunity, there is a real possibility that the rover will not be the same.
The robber's batteries could have discharged so much power and remained inactive for so long that their capacity was reduced.
If these batteries can not hold that much charge, this can affect the continuous operation of the rover.
(This story is not edited by Business Standard staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)