NASA confirmed that the Opportunity rover remains unresponsive months after a massive dust storm had covered the surface of Mars in a red haze.
Opportunity Wakes Up?
The announcement comes after an unofficial account on Twitter that is tracking the activities of Deep Space Network published a tweet claiming that it has received data transmission from the rover. The data was allegedly received on Thursday, Nov. 15, suggesting that the rover has awakened from its long slumber.
DSS 54 receiving data from Opportunity at 11b/s.
IN LOCK OFF 1 MCD2 — Deep Space Network (@dsn_status) November 15, 2018
However, before anyone could celebrate, Chris Gebhardt, managing director at NASA Spaceflight, warned that the signal might just be "ghost signal" from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter or Mars Odyssey. A few minutes later, the official Twitter account of NASA JPL confirmed that there was no transmission received. Opportunity remains silent.
A follow-up tweet explained that test data or false positive can make it appear that a rover is active on the Deep Space Network.
Waiting For Opportunity To Phone Home
The U.S. space agency has been hoping to hear from Opportunity since the rover entered hibernation mode in June. Scientists at ground control hoped to regain contact with the almost 15-year-old rover when the dust has settled and it is able to recharge its batteries as soon as its solar panels get enough sunlight.
However, months after the storm passed, Opportunity has remained inactive. The team is holding out hope that winds in Mars's Perseverance Valley, the area where the rover currently sleeps, will blow out the dust on its solar panels. NASA will continue to establish contact with the rover and will reassess the situation in January 2019.
Once Opportunity wakes up, it would immediately attempt to connect to Earth. Scientists will have several communication sessions in order to assess damage and figure out if it is ready to attempt a full recovery.
The Mars rover was launched back on July 7, 2003, with a task to provide answers about the history of water and search signs of ancient life on Mars. It outlasted by far its original 90-day mission. Its twin, Spirit, explored the surface of the red planet for six years before it stopped communicating with Earth.