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NASA’s Mars Opportunity Rover Might Have ‘Died’, Fear Scientists

Opportunity and its twin rover, Spirit, were launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in 2003

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The rover is currently keeping its
The rover is currently keeping its "eyes" on a dust event that had gone global by June 20. Flickr

Nasa’s Mars Opportunity rover that went into hibernation last June after a massive dust storm blocked sunlight from reaching its solar panels to generate power, might have “died”, fear scientists.

Opportunity’s last communication with Earth was received June 10, 2018, as 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.

Although the storm eventually abated and the skies over Perseverance cleared, 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.

NASA, Hubble, Keplar, asteroids
Nasa’s Opportunity rover might have ‘died’ on Mars. Flickr

In a last bit of effort, 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.

    NASA
    NASA’s Opporutnity Rover. Flickr

The “dust-clearing season” – the time of year on Mars when increased winds could clear the rover’s solar panels of dust that might be preventing it from charging its batteries – is drawing to a close.

Meanwhile, Mars is heading into southern winter, which brings with it extremely low temperatures that are likely to cause irreparable harm to an unpowered rover’s batteries, internal wiring and/or computer systems.

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Opportunity and its twin rover, Spirit, were launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in 2003.

Spirit landed on Mars in 2004, and its mission ended in 2011. (IANS)

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Jupiter not as Dry as it was Predicted to be: NASA Scientists

Jupiter not as dry as earlier thought, reveals new NASA probe

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Jupiter
Jupiter may not be as dry as earlier shown by a NASA probe, according to the first science. (Representational Image). Pixabay

The largest planet in our solar system may not be as dry as earlier shown by a NASA probe, according to the first science results revealed by the US space agency’s Juno mission on the amount of water in Jupiter’s atmosphere.

At the equator, water makes up about 0.25 per cent of the molecules in Jupiter’s atmosphere — almost three times that of the Sun, said the study published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

These are also the first findings on the gas giant’s abundance of water since NASA’s 1995 Galileo mission suggested Jupiter might be extremely dry compared to the Sun. The comparison is based not on liquid water but on the presence of its components, oxygen and hydrogen, present in the Sun.

“We found the water in the equator to be greater than what the Galileo probe measured,” said Cheng Li, a Juno scientist at the University of California, Berkeley. “Because the equatorial region is very unique at Jupiter, we need to compare these results with how much water is in other regions,” Li said.

An accurate estimate of the total amount of water in Jupiter’s atmosphere has been on the wish lists of planetary scientists for decades. The figure in the gas giant represents a critical missing piece to the puzzle of our solar system’s formation.

Jupiter
These are also the first findings on the gas giant’s abundance of water since NASA’s 1995 Galileo mission suggested Jupiter might be extremely dry compared to the Sun. (Representational Image). Pixabay

Jupiter was likely the first planet to form, and it contains most of the gas and dust that was not incorporated into the Sun.

Water abundance also has important implications for the gas giant’s meteorology (how wind currents flow on Jupiter) and internal structure. While lightning — a phenomenon typically fuelled by moisture — detected on Jupiter by Voyager and other spacecraft implied the presence of water, an accurate estimate of the amount of water deep within Jupiter’s atmosphere remained elusive.

Before the Galileo probe stopped transmitting 57 minutes into its Jovian descent in December 1995, it radioed out spectrometer measurements of the amount of water in the gas giant’s atmosphere down to a depth of about 120 kilometres. The scientists working on the data were dismayed to find ten times less water than expected.

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A rotating, solar-powered spacecraft Juno was launched in 2011. Because of the Galileo probe experience, the mission seeks to obtain water abundance readings across large regions of the immense planet.

The Juno science team used data collected during Juno’s first eight science flybys of Jupiter to generate the findings. (IANS)