NASA isn't giving up on the Opportunity rover yet

Mindy Sparks
February 1, 2019

While unlikely, the scenarios are possible, so NASA is sending commands to the rover to switch to its backup radio and to reset the clock in case either of those scenarios did in fact happen. The last that the team of engineers at NASA heard from Opportunity was in June 2018 before a planet-wide dust storm covered Mars in a red haze. The new commands are going to be sent out to the rover over the next few weeks, according to NASA, and will hopefully address the events that caused the rover to stop transmitting in the first place.

"We have and will continue to use multiple techniques in our attempts to contact the rover", John Callas, project manager for Opportunity, said in a statement.

The "sweep and beep" commands have been telling Opportunity to reply with a beep, rather than just waiting for it to wake and send a message.

NASA hoped that once the skies have cleared, the rover will be able to get enough sunlight and recharge its batteries.

"We are doing everything in our power to communicate with Opportunity, but as time goes on, the probability of a successful contact with the rover continues to diminish".

If either these additional transmission strategies or "sweep and beep" generates a response from the rover, engineers could attempt a recovery.


One thing the Earthbound might relate to: southern Mars is about to enter its bitter winter season, bringing with the dual challenges of increased winds and dropping temperatures.

The harsh conditions "are likely to cause irreparable harm to an unpowered rover's batteries, internal wiring and/or computer systems", the laboratory stated. However, if the rover still doesn't manage to respond, the project team would need to consult with the Mars Program Office at JPL in order to decide on the next plan. The rover is expected to land on Mars Feb. 18, 2021.

Opportunity's twin - Spirit - landed on the opposite side of Mars in Gusev crater. Opportunity began its 16th year on the Martian surface on January 24.

"Over the past seven months we have attempted to contact Opportunity over 600 times", Callas says.

Before contact was lost, the vehicle had operated for 5,111 sols, or Martian days, and traveled more than 28 miles (45 kilometers) - the longest by an off-world wheeled vehicle. "However, this anniversary can not help but be a little bittersweet as at present we don't know the rover's status".

Meanwhile, the Curiosity rover and the stationary InSight lander are continuing their missions on the Red Planet.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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