Spaceflight Insider

Inside Opportunity: Oppy still silent

Opportunity's location on the surface of Mars Image credit NASA JPl University of Arizona

The Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has been silent for 144 days. Image Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech

It has now been a very long 144 days (as of November 1, 2018) since we last heard from our rover in Perseverance Valley back on June 10 before it was forced forced into hibernation by the growing dust storm.

However, we are continuing to listen diligently every day during our programmed fault communication windows, as well as through the Deep Space Network Radio Science Receiver. But so far – still nothing. However, the HiRISE camera on board the NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter did finally acquire an image of our rover since the dust has now cleared from that global dust storm that put us in our current predicament.

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity image credit NASA

Image Credit: NASA

Opportunity likely has undergone a low-power fault, a mission clock fault and an up-loss timer fault. We have been listening for Oppy a number of times using the Deep Space Network (DSN) Radio Science Receiver since loss of signal. Additionally, we have been commanding “sweep and beeps” throughout the daily DSN pass to address a possible complexity with certain conditions within the mission clock fault.

Opportunity’s total odometry currently remains at 28.06 miles (45.16 kilometers). Not bad for a rover that was only supposed to go 1,665 feet (500 meters).

The Martian Summer season arrived back on October 16. This is important because it not only brings us warmer temperatures, but it is also when, in the past, we have experienced our solar panels getting cleaned off due to the local and regional winds on Mars. This period of cleaning lasts for around 3 months (November through January).

Following a recent review of our listening campaign, NASA has decided that we will continue our current strategy for attempting to make contact with Opportunity for the foreseeable future. We will reassess our situation in the January 2019 time frame. I still remain optimistic that some dust clearing may result in hearing from the rover during this period. If you care to send Opportunity a postcard you can use this link: Opportunity 

Mars will be getting a new arrival on November 26, the Monday after Thanksgiving, when the Mars InSight (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport) lander is scheduled to land at Elysium Planitia.

Opportunity and her twin rover, Spirit, have been on the surface of the Red Planet since January of 2004. While Spirit ceased communicating with us back on March 22, 2010, Opportunity has been operating on the surface of Mars for more than 14 and a half years (keep in mind, each rover had an planned operational life of 90 days). 

 

Stay tuned to SpaceFlight Insider as we wait for a response from our rover. 

 

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. Dr. Rice is currently a Co-Investigator and Geology Team Leader on the Mars Exploration Rover Project (Spirit and Opportunity) and provides our readers with exclusive updates about the rover’s status.

 

 

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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. Dr. Rice is currently a Co-Investigator and Geology Team Leader on the Mars Exploration Rover Project (Spirit and Opportunity). Rice also has extensive mission experience as Associate Project Scientist on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Odyssey Orbiter Projects. He has been involved in Mars landing site selection and certification activities for every NASA Mars Mission since Mars Pathfinder. His career includes working for NASA, Astrogeology Headquarters of the United States Geological Survey, the Mars Spaceflight Facility located at Arizona State University and the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory located at the University of Arizona.

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