NASA Engages Last Resort Protocol in order to Contact Opportunity

Pat Wise
February 1, 2019

The selfie was taken on January 15 and is the last one captured by the rover on Mars' Vera Rubin ridge, NASA explained.

NASA makes last-ditch attempt to Opportunity rover as it braces for Martian winter NASA is trying to breathe life into its 15-year-old Opportunity rover that has been non-responsive since June. Curiosity's selfie was snapped at this site, known as Rock Hall, and NASA scientists are still processing the data the rover has collected there and elsewhere on the ridge.

NASA stitched these images together to reveal a final selfie at the ridge, this one featuring the Rock Hall drill hole near the rover's wheels. The scene is dustier than usual at this time of year due to a regional dust storm, NASA said. They address three possible scenarios: that the rover's primary X-band radio - which Opportunity uses to communicate with Earth - has failed; that both its primary and secondary X-band radios have failed; or that the rover's internal clock, which provides a timeframe for its computer brain, is offset.

Curiosity rover arrived at Mars' Vera Rubin Ridge in September 2017, where it has spent more than a year helping researchers seek answers about the planet.

Clay minerals in this unit may hold more clues about the ancient lakes that helped form the lower levels on Mount Sharp, NASA said. Curiosity, which landed on Mars in 2012, was created to assess whether Mars ever had an environment capable to support microbes. Under the assumption that this is the end, it feels good. Opportunity has been dead quiet for over six months after falling asleep in a planet-wide dust storm, and NASA is understandably concerned.

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Steven W. Squyres, the principal investigator behind the mission, warned in a recent interview that while efforts to recover the rover are ongoing, it might be the end of the line for Opportunity. The new commands, which will be beamed to the rover during the next several weeks, address low-likelihood events that could have occurred aboard Opportunity, preventing it from transmitting.

NASA/JPL/Cornell University, Maas Digital LLC [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsNASA's Opportunity rover marked its fifteenth anniversary on the Red Planet just a few days ago.

Opportunity and its twin rover, Spirit, launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in 2003.

The rover was created to travel 1,006 metres and operate on the Red Planet for 90 Martian days (sols), NASA said in a statement.

Spirit fell silent and its mission ended in 2011.

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