NASA has started sending a new set of commands to Opportunity in a bid to compel the Mars rover to phone back to Earth.
In the next several weeks, the engineers at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California will continue beaming new commands to the 15-year-old explorer in case something has been causing the explorer from transmitting.
The new commands will be sent in addition to the "sweep and beep" commands that the space agency has been transmitting since last year.
The last communication that NASA received from the Opportunity rover was in June 2018 before a massive dust storm covered the red planet in a red haze.
One Last Bid To Contact Opportunity
The new transmission hopes to address the three possible issues that might have been preventing the rover from contacting Earth. One of these new commands tasks the rover to switch to its backup X-band radio in case the primary and secondary ones have failed.
Opportunity uses the X-band radio to communicate with ground control. Another command directs the rover to reset its internal clock which provides the timeframe for its computer brain.
"We have and will continue to use multiple techniques in our attempts to contact the rover," stated John Callas, the project manager behind the Opportunity mission at JPL.
The End Of The Line For Opportunity
The new strategy to wake Opportunity after its seven-month slumber comes after hopes that the rover will rouse once the winds of Mars blow away the dust that might have settled on its solar panels, preventing it from recharging and rebooting. Engineers at NASA believed that the seasonal winds in the Red Planet, which runs from November to January, will revive the rover. However, the dust-period is coming to an end without a peep from Opportunity.
While the team behind the mission is not giving up yet, they are ready to say goodbye to the 15-year-old explorer.
"This could be the end. Under the assumption that this is the end, it feels good. I mean that," said Steven W. Squyres, the principal investigator behind the mission.
He added that being taken out by a planet-wide dust storm is not a bad way to go, especially for a rover that was only meant to explore the planet for 90 days.
"That's an honorable death," he added.
Launched in 2003, Opportunity has become the longest-running rover in Mars.