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NASA’s Mars Orbiter Spots Opportunity Rover

In an attempt to talk to the rover, the Opportunity team is increasing the frequency of commands it beams to the rover,

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A NASA Mars orbiter has spotted the agency’s Opportunity rover on the Red Planet for the first time since it went into hibernation after a dust storm swept over the region a little more than 100 days ago and blocked sunlight from reaching the rover.

A high-resolution camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) captured the image of the rover on the slopes of the Red Planet’s Perseverance Valley, NASA said in a statement on Tuesday.

But the future of Opportunity is still in limbo as NASA has still not heard from the 14-year-old solar-powered rover.

The image of the rover, taken on September 20, was produced from about 267 kilometres above the Martian surface.

NASA, opportunity
The nearly 15-year-old rover is not out of the woods yet as it could take weeks, or even months, for the dust to start settling., Pixabay

The image showed that the dust storm over Perseverance Valley has substantially cleared.

NASA scientists estimated that the tau — a measurement of how much sunlight reaches the surface — over Opportunity to be a little higher than 10 during some points during the dust storm.

The higher the tau, the less sunlight is available.

The tau has steadily fallen in the last several months. On September 20, tau was estimated to be about 1.3 by MRO’s Mars Color Imager camera.

According to scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, Opportunity will need a tau of less than 2.0 before the solar-powered rover will be able to recharge its batteries.

TESS, rover, opportunity
NASA Curiosity rover has completed 6 years on Mars. Pixabay

No signal from Opportunity has been heard since june 10.

Also Read: NASA On The Outlook To Find the Name of Its New Mars Rover

In an attempt to talk to the rover, the Opportunity team is increasing the frequency of commands it beams to the rover via the dishes of NASA’s Deep Space Network from three times a week to multiple times per day. (IANS)

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NASA’s Probe Discovers Signs Of Water on Asteroid Bennu

OSIRIS-REx will pass later this month just 1.2 miles (1.9 km) from Bennu, entering the asteroid's gravitational pull and analyzing its terrain.

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Asteroid
This Nov. 16, 2018, image provide by NASA shows the asteroid Bennu. NASA

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has discovered ingredients for water on a relatively nearby skyscraper-sized asteroid, a rocky acorn-shaped object that may hold clues to the origins of life on Earth, scientists said on Monday.

OSIRIS-REx, which flew last week within a scant 12 miles (19 km) of the asteroid Bennu some 1.4 million miles (2.25 million km) from Earth, found traces of hydrogen and oxygen molecules — part of the recipe for water and thus the potential for life — embedded in the asteroid’s rocky surface.

The probe, on a mission to return samples from the asteroid to Earth for study, was launched in 2016. Bennu, roughly a third of a mile wide (500 meters), orbits the sun at roughly the same distance as Earth. There is concern among scientists about the possibility of Bennu impacting Earth late in the 22nd century.

 

NASA, asteroid
NASA’s OSIRIS-REx. Flickr

 

“We have found the water-rich minerals from the early solar system, which is exactly the kind of sample we were going out there to find and ultimately bring back to Earth,” University of Arizona planetary scientist Dante Lauretta, the OSIRIS-REx mission’s principal investigator, said in a telephone interview.

Asteroids are among the leftover debris from the solar system’s formation some 4.5 billion years ago. Scientists believe asteroids and comets crashing into early Earth may have delivered organic compounds and water that seeded the planet for life, and atomic-level analysis of samples from Bennu could provide key evidence to support that hypothesis.

“When samples of this material are returned by the mission to Earth in 2023, scientists will receive a treasure trove of new information about the history and evolution of our solar system,” Amy Simon, a scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, said in a statement.

OSIRIS-REx, NASA, Asteroid
This illustration provided by NASA depicts the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft at the asteroid Bennu. The rocky remnant from the dawn of the solar system may hold clues to the origins of life. VOA

“We’re really trying to understand the role that these carbon-rich asteroids played in delivering water to the early Earth and making it habitable,” Lauretta added.

OSIRIS-REx will pass later this month just 1.2 miles (1.9 km) from Bennu, entering the asteroid’s gravitational pull and analyzing its terrain. From there, the spacecraft will begin to gradually tighten its orbit around the asteroid, spiraling to within just 6 feet (2 meters) of its surface so its robot arm can snatch a sample of Bennu by July 2020.

Also Read: Wintertime Ice Growth in Arctic Sea Slows Long-Term Decline: NASA

The spacecraft will later fly back to Earth, jettisoning a capsule bearing the asteroid specimen for a parachute descent in the Utah desert in September 2023. (VOA)