WASHINGTON: A Revive mission will be soon started by NASA to rebuild communications with the Mars Opportunity Rover which works on solar power was deprived by a dust storm in the early months of June and lost contact with NASA till time.
NASA in a statement mentioned that the recovery mission will be active as soon as the skies over the Opportunity rover gets cleared till certain level to start communications with it by sending the commands. The haziness of the skies should be dropped below 1.5 the optical depth, which should be typically around 0.5 under normal conditions. A record high value of 10.8 is noted at the time rover lost connections with NASA, indicating that the sun was almost completely obscured by the dust storm.
Rich Zurek, project scientist for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter stated that “The dust haze produced by the Martian global dust storm of 2018 is one of the most extensive on record, but all indications state that it is probably coming to be close. Zurek also mentioned that there had been no signs of dust storms within 3,000 kilo-meters of Opportunity “for some time.”
The team currently working on the Opportunity mission are also disappointed and surprised by the 45-day limit to restore communications with Opportunity Rover. If Opportunity did not respond to communications even after 45days of recovery campaign, it likely meant the spacecraft had suffered a mission-ending malfunction and the team will be forced to conclude that a large amount of dust sitting on the solar arrays is blocking the sun’s energy have conspired to cause some type of fault in rover which can cannot be revived.
Though NASA did not publish an updated value of tau, JPL spokesman DC Agle in a statement mentioned that, tau had dropped to 2.1, then rose again to 2.5 in the mid-August which was decreasing but cannot be exactly figured out and he also stated that 45-day active listening period was decided by the Opportunity team in consideration with decrease in sunlight because of seasonal changes. After the 45 days, “the likelihood of hearing from the rover starts to decrease as solar insolation and temperature starts to decrease eventually” and if the Opportunity fails to respond to the active communications, JPL will not attempt to send any commands but continue to listen for signals from the rover at least through January 2019 to cover that potential cleaning phase i.e; at least a sum of eight months to hear back from the rover which is most likely to wake up autonomously and respond back to the commands sent by us.