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NASA making renewed efforts to contact Mars rover Opportunity

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WASHINGTON — NASA is making a brand new, and maybe last, try to revive contact with the Mars rover Alternative, which has not communicated with the Earth for greater than six months.

The Jet Propulsion Laboratory introduced Jan. 25 that it was transmitting a brand new set of instructions to handle what it acknowledged are “low-likelihood” occasions that might have stored the rover from contacting Earth. These new efforts are along with the months-long “sweep and beep” marketing campaign of transmitting different instructions and listening for a reply from the rover.

The brand new instructions deal with eventualities the place the rover’s major X-band radio has failed or each the first and backup X-band radios have failed, in addition to instances the place Alternative’s inside clock has an offset affecting its timing. The instructions direct the rover to change to the backup X-band radio or use its UHF transmitter to contact Earth, in addition to resetting its clock.

These eventualities might clarify why the rover has did not contact Earth, however undertaking officers acknowledge that these eventualities are unlikely. “A collection of unlikely occasions would wish to have transpired for any one among these faults to happen,” JPL famous within the assertion concerning the new marketing campaign.

Alternative final contacted Earth June 10 as an enormous mud storm, which finally spanned the planet, darkened the skies above it and disadvantaged it of solar energy. In late August, as skies lastly cleared, NASA announced a 45-day campaign to try and restore contact with the rover. That plan was criticized by some, together with former engineers concerned with the Mars Exploration Rovers program, as being too brief.

In late October, as that preliminary 45-day marketing campaign was drawing to a detailed, JPL introduced it was extending the marketing campaign by way of a minimum of January. Challenge officers hoped that rising winds on the rover’s location might take away any mud that accrued on the rover’s panels, restoring energy.

Nonetheless, the windy season is now ending in that area, which is now getting into winter. That may carry with it much less daylight in addition to low temperatures that might trigger “irreparable hurt” to the rover’s electronics, JPL stated.

“Whereas we now have not heard again from the rover and the chance that we ever will is reducing every day, we plan to proceed to pursue each logical resolution that might put us again in contact,” John Callas, Alternative undertaking supervisor at JPL, stated within the assertion.

The JPL assertion stated the brand new marketing campaign to contact the rovers will final “a number of weeks” however was no more particular. “If Alternative doesn’t reply, the undertaking staff would once more seek the advice of with the Mars Program Workplace at JPL and NASA Headquarters to find out the trail ahead,” the middle acknowledged.

Efforts to revive contact continued throughout the five-week partial authorities shutdown that ended Jan. 25. With the shutdown now over, some within the planetary science group anticipate that, if the brand new effort shouldn’t be instantly profitable, NASA might determine to finish efforts to contact the rover by mid-February. NASA is at the moment funded solely by way of Feb. 15 and runs the chance of one other shutdown if a funds deal isn’t reached by then, which might delay a call by NASA Headquarters on the rover’s future.

JPL introduced the brand new effort to contact Alternative a day after the 15th anniversary of the rover’s touchdown on Mars for what was initially supposed to be a 90-day mission. The rover operated for greater than 5,000 days previous to dropping contact final June, touring greater than 45 kilometers throughout the floor.

Callas, in a separate assertion concerning the anniversary, famous the “bittersweet” nature of the milestone given the dearth of communications with the rover. “We’re doing every part in our energy to speak with Alternative,” he stated, “however as time goes on, the chance of a profitable contact with the rover continues to decrease.”

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