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Mars Orbiter HiRISE Sends Back Photo Of Opportunity Rover Covered In Dust

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HiRISE has captured a photo of Opportunity, the rover that has remained silent a hundred days after a dust storm swept over Mars.

NASA released the photo taken from space via the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which has been looking over the Red Planet since 2006.

Where's Opportunity

From the photo, Opportunity can be seen as a dot over Perseverance Valley. It has been put to slumber back in June, when a massive dust storm shrouded most of the planet, forbidding sunlight from reaching the ground and the rover's solar panels.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter used HiRISE to take the photograph. The spacecraft is about 166 miles above the surface of the Red Planet.

NASA Phones Opportunity

The dust storm has passed, but Opportunity has not responded to any commands sent by ground control. The tau, or the amount of sunlight that reaches the surface, around the rover was estimated to be about 1.3 on Thursday, Sept. 20, based on data from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's Color Imager camera. In comparison, the tau during the dust storm measured to 10.

NASA said that Opportunity needs the tau around Perseverance Valley to dip below 1.5 in order to recharge its batteries and resume its mission.

On Sept. 11, Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California began increasing the frequency of command getting beamed to the rover via the Deep Space Network. From three times a week, the team is attempting to communicate with the golf cart-sized explorer multiple times a day. The JPL Radio Science Group will also continue to listen passively for any signs that Opportunity is beginning to stir after its nearly four-month slumber.

NASA expects that the rover has experienced a low power fault after enduring the planet-wide dust storm.

Opportunity was launched to Mars in 2003. It was supposed to operate for 90 days, but the brave explorer has defied all odds. It has persisted through getting stuck in Martian sand dunes and jammed steering motors. In July, it celebrated its 15th anniversary on the surface of the Red Planet.

Since its arrival, Opportunity has made groundbreaking discoveries that completely changed the way scientists see Earth's next-door neighbor.

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