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"We have and will continue to use multiple techniques in our attempts to contact the rover," said John Callas, project manager for Opportunity at JPL. "These new command strategies are in addition to the 'sweep and beep' commands we have been transmitting up to the rover since September." With "sweep and beep," instead of just listening for Opportunity, the project sends commands to the rover to respond back with a beep.
The new transmission strategies are expected to go on for several weeks. 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. A series of unlikely events would need to have transpired for any one of these faults to occur. The potential remedies being beamed up to address these unlikely events include a command for the rover to switch to its backup X-band radio and commands directed to reset the clock and respond via UHF.
"Over the past seven months we have attempted to contact Opportunity over 600 times," said Callas. "While we have not heard back from the rover and the probability that we ever will is decreasing each day, we plan to continue to pursue every logical solution that could put us back in touch."
Time is of the essence for the Opportunity team. The "dust-clearing season" - the time of year on Mars when increased winds could clear the rover's solar panels of dust that might be preventing it from charging its batteries - is drawing to a close. Meanwhile, Mars is heading into southern winter, which brings with it extremely low temperatures that are likely to cause irreparable harm to an unpowered rover's batteries, internal wiring and/or computer systems.
originally posted by: wildespace
Are there any recent HiRISE images of the rover? It could've been hit with a meteoroid, such impacts happen on Mars quite often.
Opportunity has been silent suggest the dust storm and the cold have put her to sleep for good
NASA’s Opportunity rover began its 15th year on Mars this week, although the intrepid robotic explorer may already be dead.
“I haven’t given up yet,” said Steven W. Squyres, the principal investigator for the mission. But he added, “This could be the end. Under the assumption that this is the end, it feels good. I mean that.”
The rover — which outlasted all expectations since its landing on Mars in 2004 and helped find convincing geological signs that water once flowed there — fell silent last June when it was enveloped by a global Martian dust storm. In darkness, the solar panels could not generate enough power to keep Opportunity awake.
To be taken out by one of the most ferocious storms on Mars in decades: “That’s an honorable death,” Dr. Squyres said.
Years ago, Dr. Squyres said no matter when the mission ended, he was sure that there would be some tantalizing mystery they would see just beyond reach.
On Thursday, he said that indeed seems to be the case. Opportunity was in the middle of exploring what looks like a gully that was formed by the flowing of water on ancient Mars. As expected, the gully looks eroded near the top, but the rover had not reached the bottom to look at where the sediments would have flowed.
The scientists had rejected some alternative hypotheses, but other ideas could also explain the landscape. “So far, the story is uncertain,” Dr. Squyres said. “The answer probably lies just down the hill.”