Optimistic about Mars Opportunity rover, NASA says

By: IANS | Washington |

Published: August 21, 2018 12:36:14 PM

NASA, NASA Opportunity rover, Mars dust storm, NASA Mars probes, Mars Opportunity probe, solar panels, NASA Deep Space Network, dust storm speeds, Mars Reconnaissance orbiter Skies can quickly become clear enough for the solar-powered rover to charge and try to "call home". (Image: NASA)

There is reason to be optimistic about the Mars Opportunity Rover that has been silent since June 10, after being caught in a massive dust storm on the Red Planet that cut off solar energy for the nearly 15-year-old rover, NASA said in a statement. According to scientists, the global dust storm is "decayed" – meaning more dust is being released from the atmosphere than is being thrown back. As a result, the sky can become clear quickly enough for the solar-powered rover to charge and try to call home & # 39;

Studies on the condition of the batteries and on-site temperatures showed that they were relatively healthy before the storm and that there is probably not too much deterioration. In addition, because dust storms tend to heat the environment – and the storm happened in the summer – the rover should have remained warm enough to survive, noted the American space agency. Engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California are now looking for signs of recovery efforts.

According to them, Opportunity needs a tau – the veil of dust that blows around – of less than 2.0 before the solar-powered rover can recharge its batteries. 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. Several times a week, the technicians use NASA's Deep Space Network, which communicates between planetary probes and the earth, to try to talk to Opportunity.

Read also: Foreign object found by Mars rover a rockflakes: NASA

The massive DSN antennas ping the rover during scheduled "wake-up" times and then search for signals sent from Opportunity. In addition, JPL's radio science 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. But even after the first time engineers hear of Opportunity, it would take time to fully recover, NASA said. .

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