It is now more than two months since NASA & # 39; s long-lived Opportunity Mars rover for the last time called home.
The possibility has no longer been visible since June 10, when the dust in the sky of the Red Planet became so thick that the solar-powered rover could not charge its batteries. The Opportunity handlers think that the six-wheeled robot has put itself into a kind of hibernation and they still hope to get a ping once the dust storm has disappeared.
And there are good reasons for this optimism, NASA officials said. [Mars Dust Storm 2018: How It Grew & What It Means for the Opportunity Rover]
"Because the batteries were relatively healthy before the storm, there is probably not too much deterioration," NASA officials wrote in an Opportunity update Thursday (August 16). "And because duststorms usually heat the environment – and the storm of 2018 happened when the Opportunity on Mars location went into the summer – the rover should have stayed warm enough to survive."
The dust storm started at the regional level at the end of May and had grown into a planet-containing sample by 20 June. At the end of last month the storm died endlessly, but there is still a lot of dust in the air – probably too much for Opportunity to start charging the batteries.
Scientists track the amount of dust in the atmosphere of Mars using a measurement of opacity called "tau". The lower the tau, the clearer the sky. The air in Opportunity's neck of the forest – the edge of the 14-mile-wide (22 kilometers) Endeavor Crater – typically has a tau of around 0.5, according to NASA officials. The last measured measurement of the rover, on June 10, tagged it at as much as 10.8.
The tau should probably be less than 2.0 for sufficient sunlight to pass through and recharge the rover's batteries, according to members of the mission staff. In the past week or so, the estimated tau in the Endeavor Crater region ranged from about 2.1 to 2.5, she added.
Engineers are trying to communicate with Opportunity several times a week using NASA's Deep Space Network, a system of large radio dishes around the world. They greet the robot during planned "wake-up times" and then listen to an answer. And team members also cast a broader network: every day they search through all the radio signals they have received from Mars and listened to Opportunity chats, NASA officials said.
Even if Opportunity eventually wakes up and makes contact again, its long trial can influence the rover's toll.
"The rover's batteries could have discharged so much power – and have remained inactive for so long – that their capacity has been reduced," NASA officials wrote in the update. "If these batteries can not hold that much charge, this may affect the rover's continued operation, or it may mean that the rover's energy consumption, such as using the heater in the winter, may ignite the batteries. "
The chances of a golf cart format landed on Mars in January 2004, three weeks after his twin, Spirit. Both robots embarked on missions of three months to look for signs of water activity in the past on the Red Planet. The duo found a lot of such evidence and then spent years exploring Mars after their guarantees had expired.
In March 2010 the ghost got stuck in a Mars trap. The robber could not orient himself again to catch the sun, and he froze in the following winter. NASA declared the Spirit dead in 2011.
NASA & # 39; s other active Mars rover, the car-size Curiosity, is on nuclear power and is therefore much less affected by the dust storm.
If you want to send your wishes to Opportunity and the mission team, you can do so with the & # 39; postcards & # 39; on this mission site.
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