NASA holds out hope that the Opportunity rover will phone home

With skies clearing over s resting spot in Mars, NASA believes that the solar-powered rover will soon receive enough sunlight to automatically initiate recovery procedures -but only if it is able to.

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.

NASA's Opportunity has been caught in a large-scale dust storm and marooned since early June but scientists are optimistic the storm is dying down and its beloved vehicle can be coaxed back into action. "Assuming that we hear back from Opportunity, we will begin the process of discerning its status and bringing it back online".

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. "Nonetheless, in the now not actually chance that there could be a giant quantity of mud sitting on the solar arrays that's blocking the sun's vitality, we are going to have the flexibility to proceed passive listening efforts for several months".

The epic Martian dust storm started on May 30, casting dark skies over Perseverance Valley, where the 15-year-old Opportunity had been working.

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If NASA's Different Mars rover is gentle alive, we ought to hear from it moderately rapidly.

"The sun is breaking through the haze over Perseverance Valley", John Callas, Opportunity project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a news release.

That said, Opportunity is on a clock now. Choose from among several lovely Mars photos, write a brief message and send it up to Opportunity to show your support.

While dust storms aren't an unusual occurrence on Mars - the planet is shroud in a red haze of dust once every couple of years - but NASA says this is "one of the most intense" storms ever recorded. Photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

According to MARCI images, the "Opportunity site have shown no active dust storms for some time within 3,000 kilometers of the rover site".

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"At that point our active phase of reaching out to Opportunity will be at an end", Callas said. Back in 2016, Opportunity was visited by one such whirlwind, which are common on the Red Planet.

The chances are small that dust accumulation would be the root cause of Opportunity's lack of communication.

A dust devil could cruise by close enough to clear the dust off the solar panels.

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. The probe was created to travel just 1km, but in its many years of service it has managed to log more than 45km. After that, they'll run a full diagnostic check to see how the rover is doing.

"In a situation like this you hope for the best but plan for all eventualities", said Callas. Only time will tell us for sure, but in the mean time, we'll keep hoping that Oppy pulls through this latest challenge. But there's a distinct possibility we'll hear nothing, which would be bad, but not necessarily the end of the world.

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In its statement, NASA did not publish an updated value of tau.

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