RocketSTEM –12 February 2019
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,
She has driven
over 28 miles (45 km) on an amazing overland expedition of science and
discovery since landing on Mars 15 years ago!
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
‘Dead or Alive?’ That’s the
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.
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
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.
remains “still silent” as of today.
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
“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:
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.
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.’
twin sister Spirit found extensive evidence that liquid water once flowed on
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
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.
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
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