NASA Making One Final Attempt at Phone Home Call with Opportunity Mars Rover

Opportunity rover looks south
from the top of Perseverance Valley along the rim of Endeavour Crater on Mars
in this partial self portrait including the rover deck and solar panels.
Perseverance Valley descends from the right and terminates down near the crater
floor. This navcam camera photo mosaic was assembled from raw images taken on
Sol 4736 (20 May 2017) and colorized. Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell/Marco Di
Lorenzo/Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
Ken Kremer  SpaceUpClose.com &
RocketSTEM
–12 February 2019
CAPE CANAVERAL,
FL – Tonight NASA engineers are making one final attempt at a ‘Phone Home Call’
with their world famous Opportunity Mars Rover that has not communicated a single
bit since a massive global dust storm struck eight months ago, silencing the
long lived solar powered robot – the agency announced late this afternoon, Tuesday,
Feb. 12.

She has driven
over 28 miles (45 km) on an amazing overland expedition of science and
discovery since landing on Mars 15 years ago!



The
last communication from the robot nicknamed ‘Oppy’ with Earth was received June
10, 2018 (Sol 5111) where she stands at Perseverance Valley – a gully carved by flowing liquid water in ancient times along the eroded rim of
giant Endeavour Crater.



#OppyPhoneHome Update. Tonight, we’ll make our last
planned attempts to contact Opportunity,” NASA tweeted late today, Feb. 12. 



“The solar-powered rover
last communicated on June 10, 2018, as a planet-wide dust storm swept across
Mars.”



‘Dead or Alive?’ That’s the
prescient question. 



No Sun = No Power = No Phone Home


“Opportunity likely experienced a low-power
fault, a mission clock fault and an up-loss timer fault,” according to the team explaining
why not a chirp has been heard.



If this last
communication attempt fails NASA officials will likely declare Opportunity dead
at a media briefing to be held tomorrow afternoon, Wednesday, Feb. 13 led by
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. 



That’s because the weather situation is changing on Mars. Although the
dust finally subsided last fall it is now once again increasing and becoming
potentially dire as wintertime encroaches on southern hemisphere of the Red
Planet where Opportunity is located. 



That means less sun
and lower temperatures -both of which could kill off any chance for reviving Opportunity. 



You can watch the
briefing live steamed on
NASA Television, the agency’s website and YouTube.



“NASA will discuss the
status of its Mars Exploration
Rover
(MER) Opportunity in a media briefing at 11 a.m. PST (2 p.m.
EST) Wednesday, Feb. 13, from the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in
Pasadena, California,” in a NASA statement. 

This pre-dust storm panoramic mosaic view was one
of the last ones taken by NASA’s Opportunity rover and shows the spectacular
view from her approximate current position as of June 2018 after traveling
halfway down the fluid carved slope of Perseverance Valley – while peering into
the interior of vast Endeavour Crater.  This navcam camera photo mosaic was assembled by Ken
Kremer and Marco Di Lorenzo from raw images taken on Sol 5074  (3 May 2018) and colorized. Credit:
NASA/JPL/Cornell/Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/Marco Di Lorenzo

To illustrate
Opportunity’s adventures, I’m including herein several of the hundreds of
Opportunity rover mosaics created by the imaging team of Ken Kremer (founder
and editor of Space UpClose) and Marco Di Lorenzo. Also check out our route map
showing the entire 15 year journey across Mars. 



Until the historic
planet encircling dust storm hit in late May 2018, the six wheeled robot had
operated for 14 and one half years !!  – far
beyond the wildest expectations of the science and engineering team.



The Opportunity mission
was only warrantied to last a mere 90 sols, or 3 months since sending her
first signal back to
Earth from the surface on Jan. 24 at 9:05 p.m. PST (Jan. 25, 2004, at 12:05
a.m. EST).



Since
then Opportunity has conducted a resoundingly
successful scientific foray on the alien Red Planets surface
on an stunning overland trek encompassing more than 28 miles (45 kilometers) across
a region called Meridiani Planum.



Sadly Opportunity
remains “still silent” as of today. 
NASA’s
Opportunity rover discovers a beautiful Martian dust devil moving across the
floor of Endeavour crater as wheel tracks show robots path exploring the steepest
ever slopes of the then 13 year long mission, in search of water altered
minerals at Knudsen Ridge inside Marathon Valley on 1 April 2016. This navcam
camera photo mosaic was assembled from raw images taken on Sol 4332 (1 April
2016) and colorized. Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell/ Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/Marco
Di Lorenzo

Since last June NASA
pulled out all the stops to try and regain contact with Opportunity. 



In fact on the
occasion of her 15th landing anniversary last month (Jan. 24) NASA announced
that engineers were implementing a new strategy in hopes of making renewed
contact.



“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,” said NASA.



As of today more then
835 recovery commands have been transmitted from the team via the DSN – but nothing
has been heard back from Oppy.

This set of images from NASA’s Mars
Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) shows a fierce dust storm kicking up on Mars in
June 2018, with NASA’s Opportunity and Curiosity rovers on the surface
indicated as icons.
  Credits:
NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

When the massive planet-encircling dust storm hit Opportunity had
been descending down and exploring Perseverance
Valley located
along the eroded western rim of the gigantic 22-km diameter (14
mi) impact crater named Endeavour. 



The global
Martian dust storm that gradually encircled the Red Planet started in late May
whipping up dust that blocked Opportunity’s solar arrays from generating power
and charging the life-giving batteries – thereby cutting off all communications
with Earth from the essentially dead robot.



Watch for an update
and a gallery of our personal ‘Postcards from Mars.’



Opportunity and
twin sister Spirit found extensive evidence that liquid water once flowed on
Mars billions
of years ago when it was warmer and wetter
and thus could potentially have supported Martian microbial life forms. Opportunity
discovered clay minerals that formed in pH neutral water more conducive to
life. 
Two 2001 images from the Mars Orbiter Camera on NASA’s Mars
Global Surveyor orbiter show a dramatic change in the planet’s appearance when
haze raised by dust-storm activity in the south became globally distributed.
The images were taken about a month apart. Credit:  NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS



As of Feb 12, 2019 long
lived Opportunity has survived or experienced over 5350 Sols (or Martian days)
roving the harsh environment of the Red Planet. 



Opportunity has taken over
228,771 images and traversed over
28.06 miles (45.16 kilometers) – more than a marathon. 

NASA’s Opportunity rover peers
outwards across to the vast expense of Endeavour Crater from current location
descending along steep walled Marathon Valley in early November 2015. Marathon
Valley holds significant deposits of water altered clay minerals holding clues
to the planets watery past. Shadow of Pancam Mast assembly and robots deck
visible at right. This navcam camera photo mosaic was assembled from images
taken on Sol 4181 (Oct. 29, 2015) and colorized. Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell/Ken
Kremer/kenkremer.com/Marco Di Lorenzo

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA,
Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Orbital ATK and more space and mission reports direct
from the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida and
Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia.



Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human
spaceflight news: www.kenkremer.com
–www.spaceupclose.com – twitter @ken_kremer – email: ken at kenkremer.com



Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the
KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed on TV and radio about space topics.


………….




Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events



Ken’s
upcoming talks:



Apr 3: “Exploring
Mars; The Search for Life & A Journey in 3-D.”  7 PM, Lawton C
Johnson
Middle School, Summit, NJ. Open to the public. Details upcoming.
Latest results from Mars & Ultima Thule
15 Year Traverse Map for NASA’s Opportunity
rover from 2004 to 2019. This map shows the entire 45-kilometer (28 mi) path
the rover has driven on the Red Planet during over 15 Earth years (7.8 Mars
years) and more than a marathon runners distance for over 5300 Sols, or Martian
days, since landing inside Eagle Crater on Jan 24, 2004 – to current location
at Perseverance Valley at the western rim of Endeavour Crater. The rover
reached Perseverance Valley in May 2017 and descended about halfway by June
2018.
  Its likely a water carved Martian
gully. Opportunity surpassed Marathon distance on Sol 3968 after reaching 11th
Martian anniversary on Sol 3911. Opportunity discovered clay minerals at
Esperance – indicative of a habitable zone – and searched for more at Marathon
Valley. Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell/ASU/Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

Ken Kremer

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and more space and mission reports direct from Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news. Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics. Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events.

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