It all started from one of Mars’ most powerful global dust storms on June 10th, 2018 that made the autonomous rover “Opportunity” fall into a ‘no-connection-bubble’ afterwards.
May there be hope in Opportunity’s restitution.
The golf-cart-size vehicle launched toward Mars in June 2003, landed in January 2004, and was supposed to last three months. Today, the rover is 15 years old and has rolled more than a marathon’s worth of miles across the surface of the red planet using solar power.
Yet now, due to such an immense storm invasion, which has now raged for nearly two months, Opportunity fell asleep on June 10 and hasn’t phoned home.
The Martian weather event has not only blocked light to Opportunity’s solar panels, but also coated them in fine dust. This one-two punch has dramatically lowered the rover’s ability to store and use electrical energy.
Little buttons of nuclear material called plutonium-238 help keep Opportunity’s circuitry warm, but the stuff doesn’t last forever and is well-decayed – so it’s not hot enough to fully protect the rover’s systems. This means Opportunity still needs electricity to keep its battery charged, run circuit-warming heaters, and talk to NASA mission control back on Earth.
Draining the batteries too low is also problematic. The longer they’re inactive, the more electrical storage capacity they lose. If the storm doesn’t break soon, and Martian dust devils don’t blow the dust off Opportunity’s solar panels, NASA says there’s a possibility the batteries could “brown out,” or suddenly dip in voltage.
If that happens, or the rover can’t recover a variety of “fault modes,” Opportunity will join the ranks of Spirit – its nearly identical sister rover.
Spirit stopped talking to NASA in March 2010, during a Martian winter. Engineers tried to regain contact with Spirit for more than a year before calling it quits. (Spirit is now presumably another dead robot on the red planet.)
I would say both yes and no.
Although, NASA claims to stay optimistic according to the recent weakening of the prodigious storm that made the rover lose its signal to his motherland.
So who knows, hopefully young fellow Opportunity would give himself an opportunity to come back to life.
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