Science

NASA trying to reestablish contact with Opportunity rover

NASA trying to reestablish contact with Opportunity rover”

This week, NASA scientists confirmed Curiosity has taken its last selfie on Vera Rubin Ridge and is now making its way down the slope Mount Sharp's clay region. Now, the scientists fear that Opportunity Rover is dead for good due to the dust storm that swiped Mars previous year, as the most recent attempts to contact the rover returned no results.

Aside from showing off its metallic, boxy self and its dusty surroundings, Curiosity also managed to show off the "Rock Hall" drill site in the lower left corner of the frame.

The images feature a location on the ridge called Rock Hall, which the rover drilled on December 15. According to the space agency, the Mars environment looks dustier than usual because of a dust storm now happening at that particular location.

Curiosity rover arrived at Mars' Vera Rubin Ridge in September 2017, where it has spent more than a year helping researchers seek answers about the planet. "It's now headed into the 'clay-bearing unit, ' which sits in a trough just south of the ridge". "Clay minerals in this unit may hold more clues about the ancient lakes that helped form the lower levels on Mount Sharp". Curiosity, which landed on Mars in 2012, was created to assess whether Mars ever had an environment capable to support microbes.

While unlikely, the scenarios are possible, so NASA is sending commands to the rover to switch to its backup radio and to reset the clock in case either of those scenarios did in fact happen.

"I haven't given up yet", Cornell University professor Steven Squyres, the mission's principal investigator, told The New York Times.

In the background, a regional dust storm is visible, a reminder of the challenges Curiosity faces as it does its pioneering work on Mars and an uncomfortable reminder of the potential fate of its cousin rover, Opportunity, which has been out of contact with NASA engineers and is feared lost after a planet-wide dust-storm disabled it in June of a year ago. Under the assumption that this is the end, it feels good. Together with its twin rover Spirit, which touched down on Mars weeks before it in 2004, Opportunity embarked on what was expected to be a 90-day mission to search for signs of water on the planet.

The team is continuing to listen for the rover over a broad range of times, frequencies and polarizations using the Deep Space Network (DSN) Radio Science Receiver. Each Rover was created to last a few months and travel a few hundred yards.

Opportunity and its twin craft, Spirit landed on Mars on January 24, 2004. While Spirit's run on Mars effectively ended in 2011, Opportunity persisted and continued to make invaluable scientific discoveries.



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