NASA sets 45 day window to re-kindle communication with Mars Rover Opportunity

Published on: Sep 3, 2018 11:28 IST
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NASA sets 45 day window to re-kindle communication with Mars Rover Opportunity

NASA is on course to re-establish communication links with its Mars rover named Opportunity. According to Xinhua, the US space agency has released a statement which says that it will be starting a 45-day campaign in a bid to restore communications with the rover. It will do that once the skies clouding Opportunity clear out to a sufficient level. The communication to the rover snapped sometime in June due to a dust storm that largely left it bereft of solar power. Now, the storm has started fading out. "The dust haze produced by the Martian global dust storm of 2018 is one of the most extensive on record, but all indications are it is finally coming to a close," said Rich Zurek, project scientist for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

He added that there had been no signs of dust storms within 3,000 km of Opportunity "for some time." John Callas, Opportunity project manager at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement that "assuming that we hear back from Opportunity, we will begin the process of discerning its status and bringing it back online." NASA’s plan, however, has met with criticism as it limits the active part of recovery to a longish 45 days.

Mike Seibert, a former flight director and rover driver for Opportunity said that Jet Propulsion Laboratory under NASA once attempted "active listening" of Spirit, the twin of Opportunity, for 10 months in 2010 and 2011 when that rover stopped transmitting before giving up. Callas said that if Opportunity did not respond to communications attempts after that 45-day campaign, it likely meant the spacecraft had suffered a mission-ending malfunction.

"We will keep trying to get our Martian friend back online. We will not give up on #Oppy even after the 45 days of the plan we have put in place!" tweeted Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science.

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