NASA eager to hear from Mars rover as dust storm clears

It has been a long 84 days.

The rover's last communication with Earth was received on June 10, and Opportunity's current health is unknown, Nasa said. So far however - nothing.

For their part, space fans have been tweeting up a storm in the hopes that Opportunity - or Oppy as it's affectionately known - will wake up soon.

Despite an incorrect media report, Summer is not fading at the Opportunity site in fact it hasn't even arrived yet!

NASA is the only space agency to have successfully landed a robotic vehicles on Mars.

But only a handful have ever grown beyond control to engulf the entire planet.

"If we do not hear back after 45 days, the team will be forced to conclude that the Sun-blocking dust and the Martian cold have conspired to cause some type of fault from which the rover will more than likely not recover", Callas noted.

NASA's Opportunity has been caught in a large-scale dust storm and marooned since early June but scientists are optimistic the storm is dying down and its beloved vehicle can be coaxed back into action.

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NASA has provided a pretty solid update about Opportunity's status, building on the one they provided back on August 17. It's quite possible that, by the time that happens, the 45-day window will have passed.

"At that point our active phase of reaching out to Opportunity will be at an end".

The issue here is that Opportunity's solar panels may be covered in dust, a real concern given the storm that the rover just weathered. "However, in the unlikely chance that there is a large amount of dust sitting on the solar arrays that is blocking the sun's energy, we will continue passive listening efforts for several months". According to the space agency, researchers continue to see signs that the global dust storm is calming down. Opportunity has been out of contact for some time now because of a huge dust storm. If no word comes in the next couple of months, NASA said it will cut back on its listening effort.

Let's hope we speak soon, Opportunity. The probe was created to travel just 1km, but in its many years of service it has managed to log more than 45km. "The 45-day period, which has not started yet, is meant to span the most likely time to hear from the rover; that is, when the skies clear and there is the most amount of sunlight".

John Callas, Opportunity project manager at JPL, said: "The Sun is breaking through the haze over Perseverance Valley, and soon there will be enough sunlight present that Opportunity should be able to recharge its batteries".

If NASA's Different Mars rover is gentle alive, we ought to hear from it moderately rapidly. "Assuming that we hear back from Opportunity, we will begin the process of discerning its status and bringing it back online". After that, they'll run a full diagnostic check to see how the rover is doing.

Dr. Jim W. Rice, Jr., is an Astrogeologist at the Planetary Science Institute, he has over 25 years research experience specializing on the surface geology and history of water on Mars. However, the site that Opportunity now occupies is no longer engulfed by the planet-encircling dust storm that has plagued Mars since late May. Rice also has extensive mission experience as Associate Project Scientist on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Odyssey Orbiter Projects.

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