Saturday, August 15, 2020
Home Lead Story NASA About to Pull Plug on Mars Rover After Being Silent For...

NASA About to Pull Plug on Mars Rover After Being Silent For Eight Months

Rather than viewing the dust storm as bad luck, Callas considers it good luck that we skirted so many possible storms over the years. Global dust storms typically kick up every few years, and “we had gone a long time without one.”

NASA is trying one last time to contact its record-setting Mars rover Opportunity, before calling it quits.

The rover has been silent for eight months, victim of one of the most intense dust storms in decades. Thick dust darkened the sky last summer and, for months, blocked sunlight from the spacecraft’s solar panels.

NASA said Tuesday it will issue a final series of recovery commands, on top of more than 1,000 already sent. If there’s no response by Wednesday — which NASA suspects will be the case — Opportunity will be declared dead, 15 years after arriving at the red planet.

Team members are already looking back at Opportunity’s achievements, including confirmation water once flowed on Mars. Opportunity was, by far, the longest-lasting lander on Mars. Besides endurance, the six-wheeled rover set a roaming record of 28 miles (45 kilometers.)

FILE - This composite of March 2015 photos made available by NASA shows a shallow crater called Spirit of St. Louis, about 110 feet (34 meters) long and about 80 feet (24 meters) wide, with a floor slightly darker than surrounding terrain.
This composite of March 2015 photos made available by NASA shows a shallow crater called Spirit of St. Louis, about 110 feet (34 meters) long and about 80 feet (24 meters) wide, with a floor slightly darker than surrounding terrain. VOA

Its identical twin, Spirit, was pronounced dead in 2011, a year after it got stuck in sand and communication ceased.

Both outlived and outperformed expectations, on opposite sides of Mars. The golf cart-size rovers were designed to operate as geologists for just three months, after bouncing onto our planetary neighbor inside cushioning air bags in January 2004. They rocketed from Cape Canaveral a month apart in 2003.

It’s no easier saying goodbye now to Opportunity, than it was to Spirit, project manager John Callas told The Associated Press.

“It’s just like a loved one who’s gone missing, and you keep holding out hope that they will show up and that they’re healthy,” he said. “But each passing day that diminishes, and at some point you have to say ‘enough’ and move on with your life.”

Deputy project scientist Abigail Fraeman was a 16-year-old high school student when Opportunity landed on Mars; she was inside the control center as part of an outreach program. Inspired, Fraeman went on to become a planetary scientist, joined NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and ended up deputy project scientist for Opportunity.

“It gives you an idea just how long this mission has lasted,” she said. “Opportunity’s just been a workhorse … it’s really a testament, I think, to how well the mission was designed and how careful the team was in operating the vehicle.”

This Jan. 4, 2018 photo made available by NASA shows a view from the front Hazard Avoidance Camera of the Opportunity rover on the inboard slope of the western rim of Endeavour Crater on the planet Mars.
This Jan. 4, 2018 photo made available by NASA shows a view from the front Hazard Avoidance Camera of the Opportunity rover on the inboard slope of the western rim of Endeavour Crater on the planet Mars. VOA

Rather than viewing the dust storm as bad luck, Callas considers it good luck that we skirted so many possible storms over the years. Global dust storms typically kick up every few years, and “we had gone a long time without one.”

Unlike NASA’s nuclear-powered Curiosity rover still chugging along on Mars, Opportunity and Spirit were never designed to endure such severe weather.

Cornell University’s Steve Squyres, lead scientist for both Opportunity and Spirit, considers succumbing to a ferocious storm an “honorable way” for the mission to end.

“You could have lost a lot of money over the years betting against Opportunity,” Squyres told the AP Tuesday.

This image sent by NASA’s Opportunity rover on Jan. 7, 2015 shows a view from atop a Martian hill. Opportunity spent several days at the summit making pictures that engineers will stitch into a color panorama.
This image sent by NASA’s Opportunity rover on Jan. 7, 2015 shows a view from atop a Martian hill. Opportunity spent several days at the summit making pictures that engineers will stitch into a color panorama. VOA

The rovers’ greatest gift, according to Squyres, was providing a geologic record at two distinct places where water once flowed on Mars, and describing the conditions there that may have supported possible ancient life.

NASA last heard from Opportunity on June 10. Flight controllers tried to awaken the rover, devising and sending command after command, month after month. The Martian skies eventually cleared enough for sunlight to reach the rover’s solar panels, but there was still no response. Now it’s getting colder and darker at Mars, further dimming prospects.

Also Read: Americans ‘Alarmed’ by Climate Change Double in Just 5 Years2019

Engineers speculate the rover’s internal clock may have become scrambled during the prolonged outage, disrupting the rover’s sleep cycle and draining on-board batteries. It’s especially frustrating, according to Callas, not knowing precisely why Opportunity — or Spirit — failed.

Now it’s up to Curiosity and the newly arrived InSight lander to carry on the legacy, he noted, along with spacecraft in orbit around Mars.

As for Opportunity, “It has given us a larger world,” Callas said. “Mars is now part of our neighborhood.”(VOA)

STAY CONNECTED

18,953FansLike
362FollowersFollow
1,780FollowersFollow

Most Popular

Here’s How an Online Training Helped me Land my Dream Job

About the Author: Apurva Bhalerao is a postgraduate in Mechatronics. She joined Internshala Trainings for Internet of Things training. She shares how an online...

Internships for Students With Good People Skills

College students, especially the first and second year ones, often hesitate to apply to internships for the reason that they don’t have any job-specific...

73% Females in Rajasthan Facing Issues in Procuring Sanitary Napkins During Lockdown

Seven of every 10 adolescent females, nearly 73 per cent, in Rajasthan say they have had a problem procuring sanitary pads during lockdown in...

I Believe Dance is like Talking Without Speaking: Govinda

Actor Govinda sees dancing more like talking, sans words. "I believe that dance is more like talking without having to actually speak or use words....

Google Search to Provide you With Necessary Information About Floods in India

Google is already sending public alerts to people hit by flooding in India and users in India can now use Search to simply enter...

Yoga Improves Symptoms of Generalised Anxiety Disorder: Researchers

Researchers have suggested that yoga improves symptoms of generalised anxiety disorder, a condition with chronic nervousness and worry, suggesting the popular practice may be...

Young Women More Stressed Than Men During Lockdown: Survey

A recent survey on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on people between 10 and 24 years in UP, Bihar and Rajasthan has revealed...

Doctors Estimated 3 Folds Rise in Deaths of Patients During Lockdown Due to “Waitlist Mortality”

By Ashish Srivastava The nationwide lockdown imposed from March 24 has affected services across sectors, and key areas of medical care were also not left...

Recent Comments