NASA’s Opportunity rover might have ‘died’ on Mars

Artist's illustration of NASA's Opportunity rover on the surface of Mars. (NASA)
Artist's illustration of NASA's Opportunity rover on the surface of Mars. (NASA)
Credit: NASA/JPL illustration

NASA is doing what it can to get the opportunity rover on Mars to make contact once more with Earth. The rover hasn’t sent communications back to Earth since June 10, 2018, when a sandstorm on Mars overwhelmed it.

Now, NASA is working to hopefully get the rover back in communication with engineers on Earth. Messages to the rover from jet propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California, are being crafted and sent to the Red Planet. The new commands will 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 1st place.

What happened exactly to the Mars Rover is unknown, in part due to the fact that the rover stopped transmitting. so rather than addressing one issue, NASA aims to address several possible problems with its new transmissions.

The first of the 3 scenarios is that the x-band radio failed, making it not possible for the rover to use it to communicate with Earth. The 2nd scenario is that both the primary and secondary x-band radios failed and the third is that the rovers internal clock was thrown off and it can’t provide a time frame for the rover’s computer anymore, according to NASA.

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While unlikely 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.

“These new command methods are in addition to the ‘sweep and beep’ commands we’ve been transmitting up to the rover since September,” said opportunity project manager John Callas, according to NASA.

That technique involves sending commands to the rover to respond with a beep, in the hopes that the rover will re-establish communication. If neither of the strategies works the engineers will need to reconvene to decide on the next steps.

Though the rover has been without communication since June, it was spotted in a picture taken by the Mars orbiter in September. The image shows the little rover in Perseverance valley on the planet and seems as just a small dot in the image.

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The pressure is on to make contact once more because the dust-clearing season is near to end and Mars is about to enter winter, that could bring cold temperatures that cause damage to the rover.

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