NASA's Opportunity Rover might have died on Mars, fear scientists

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Representational Image
Representational Image

New Delhi : NASA’s Mars Opportunity rover that, once, went into hibernation in June 2018 might have died in Mars, fears scientists. The rover went into sleeping mode after a massive dust storm blocked sunlight from reaching its solar panels to generate power.

It was on June 10, 2018, that NASA on Earth received Opportunity's signal for the last time. Report claims that there was a planet-wide dust storm blanketed the solar-powered rover’s location on the western rim of Perseverance Valley, eventually blocking out so much sunlight that the rover could no longer charge its batteries.

Though the storm stopped yet the 15-year-old rover has not communicated with Earth since then.

“I haven’t given up yet. This could be the end. Under the assumption that this is the end, it feels good. I mean that,” The New York Time quoted Cornell University Professor Steven Squyres, the mission’s Principal Investigator, as saying.

If the storm knocked out the rover for good, “that’s an honourable death”, he added.

Scientists have tried their best to get connected with rover but all efforts went in vain. Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, are transmitting a new set of commands to the Opportunity rover in an attempt to compel the 15-year-old Martian explorer to contact Earth.

The new commands, which will be beamed to the rover during the next several weeks, address low-likelihood events that could have occurred aboard Opportunity, preventing it from transmitting, NASA said.

“We have and will continue to use multiple techniques in our attempts to contact the rover,” said John Callas, project manager for Opportunity at the JPL.

“Over the past seven months, we have attempted to contact Opportunity over 600 times.

“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.

For now, astronauts say that Mars is heading into southern winter, which brings with it extremely low temperatures that will drastically affect the uncharged batteries of rover including the internal wiring and computer systems.

To inform, the Opportunity its twin rover, Spirit, were launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in 2003.