NASA remains confident that its Opportunity rover on Mars will be able to wake up after the massive dust storm on the Red Planet is over, despite not hearing from it for a couple of weeks.
The Martian dust storm started on May 30, and it has since grown to envelop the entire planet. The Opportunity rover is caught right in the middle of it, and was forced to enter hibernation, as it will not be able to recharge its solar-powered batteries.
NASA Hopes For The Best For Opportunity Rover
NASA is still hoping for the best for its Opportunity rover, which has not sent a photo back to Earth since June 10.
"We have not heard from the rover for a couple of weeks," said Mars Exploration Rover mission deputy principal investigator Ray Arvidson.
According to Arvidson, Opportunity is likely in low-power mode, in which it periodically wakes up to check if its solar-powered batteries have been recharged. If the charge is still too low, the rover will go back to sleep, which is what has probably been happening, as the dust storm has been blocking the sun.
After the storm subsides, Arvidson said that Opportunity should try to wake up and determine if it has enough charge to send a signal to Earth. If its power is sufficient, it will let NASA know that it is fine and then go back to sleep to recharge its batteries further.
The Martian dust storm, however, is still raging on, with astrophotographer Damian Peach creating an animation to show the phenomenon's effects on the Red Planet. Peach said that the features of Mars are currently hidden underneath all the dust.
Will The Opportunity Rover Survive?
NASA has touted the durability of the Opportunity rover, which arrived on Mars alongside its twin, the Spirit rover, in 2004. Spirit's last communication with Earth was in March 2010, but Opportunity kept going.
In early June, NASA was forced to shut down the Opportunity rover as the Martian dust storm grew bigger than North America. The Opportunity rover fell silent afterward, as the dust storm further escalated into a planet-encircling phenomenon.
With no end in sight for the massive dust storm on Mars, there is no assurance that the Opportunity rover will be able to survive the ordeal. NASA, however, remains confident that the rover will make it and extend its 14-year tenure on the Red Planet and continues to wait for the Opportunity rover to send a signal back home.