"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", says John Callas, Opportunity project manager told NASA Friday.
The robot is battling a killer weather combination with the extreme dust storm, which is blocking light to its solar panels and coating it in a fine dust, while also fighting -100 degree Fahrenheit temperatures. Opportunity has now been sitting in limbo for a long, long time, and even if the rover managed to snap out of its stupor there's no guarantee that it can continue on in the same manner that it did before the storm engulfed it. If the team doesn't hear back from Opportunity during that period of time, the space agency will assume that something has impacted the rover in a way that prevents its recovery.
Opportunity engineers are relying on the expertise of Mars scientists analysing data from the Mars Color Imager (MARCI) aboard Nasa's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) to estimate the tau near the rover's position.
If NASA's Different Mars rover is gentle alive, we ought to hear from it moderately rapidly. The good news is no dust storms are brewing within 1,900 miles of Opportunity according to MRO Project Scientist Rich Zurek.More news: Alabama, Clemson, LSU and Notre Dame lead first College Football Playoff rankings
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That said, Opportunity is on a clock now.
That gives Opportunity a chance to begin absorbing sunlight from its spot in Mars' Perseverance Valley. 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. Back in 2016, Opportunity was visited by one such whirlwind, which are common on the Red Planet. Such "cleaning events" were first discovered by Mars rover teams in 2004 when, on several occasions, battery power levels aboard both Spirit and Opportunity increased by several percent during a single Martian night, when the logical expectation was that they would continue to decrease. A dust devil could only revive the vehicle if a buildup of dust is the reason it has stopped moving. Nonetheless, each day during the passive phase, JPL's Radio Science group will scour the signal records taken by a very sensitive broadband receiver of radio frequencies emanating from Mars, looking for a sign that the rover is trying to reach out. The probe was created to travel just 1km, but in its many years of service it has managed to log more than 45km. Different has been quiet since June 10, 2018, as a mud storm has raged spherical it.
Those now working on the Opportunity mission are also disappointed and surprised by the 45-day limit to listening efforts, according to project sources not authorized to speak on the record. "Through thick and thin, the team has seen their rover solider on", NASA wrote. But there's a distinct possibility we'll hear nothing, which would be bad, but not necessarily the end of the world.
Thankfully, toward the end of July, the massive Martian dust storm started to subside.