Engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, will use antennas like this one to transmit a new set of commands to the Opportunity rover in an attempt to compel the 15-year-old Martian explorer to contact Earth. It hasn't woken up since. The new commands will address "low-likelihood events" that might have been preventing the rover from sending signals back home.
In a statement on Friday, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory that its engineers have embarked on transmitting a new set of signals created to wake up the dormant vehicle. The new commands will be sent in the coming weeks and will address the issues that are preventing Opportunity rover from transmitting signals. Unfortunately, the golf cart-sized robot can't have a proper celebration because it entered sleep mode in June when a global dust storm on Mars blocked out the sun so that it couldn't recharge its batteries.
The battery, which hasn't been operating for months, was never created to last this long and if drained, it is feared that the batteries have become damaged during the off time. NASA called the circumstances that would have resulted in the specific problems it's addressing "unlikely", but Opportunity's team hasn't lost hope yet.
NASA/JPL/Cornell University, Maas Digital LLC [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsNASA's Opportunity rover marked its fifteenth anniversary on the Red Planet just a few days ago.
The rover hasn't communicated with NASA since June 2018 when a dust storm hit.
A third possibility, NASA said, is that Opportunity's internal clock, which provides a time for the vehicle's computer, is offset, meaning it doesn't know what is the actual time of day. If not, the project team would have to consult with the Mars Program office at JPL and NASA headquarters "to determine the path forward".
"We have and will continue to use multiple techniques in our attempts to contact the Rover".
This mosaic of images was taken by NASA Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity during December of 2011.
"While we have not heard back from the rover and the probability that we ever will is decreasing each day, we plan to continue to pursue every logical solution that could put us back in touch", he said. The images were taken between sol 5,000 and 5,006 if February 2018.
Opportunity and its twin rover, Spirit, were launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in 2003. It traveled 4.8 miles (7.7 kilometers) before becoming stuck in a sand trap in late 2009.
NASA's attempts to contact the rover have thus far been met with only silence.
The U.S. space agency has not stopped to contact Opportunity.