2023 Author: Bryan Walter | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-21 22:24
NASA hopes to get in touch with the Opportunity rover in the coming months - it suspended its science program in June this year due to a global dust storm that blocks the penetration of sunlight through the atmosphere and prevents the rover from using solar panels to replenish its energy reserves, it is reported on the agency website.
On June 1, a dust storm began in the Valley of Perseverance, where the rover is now located, which within several days covered an area of 18 million square kilometers. At the same time, the level of opacity of the Martian atmosphere also increased - on June 10 it reached 10, 8 tau (the unit of measurement used by astronomers - the lower the indicator, the higher the transparency), due to which the solar radiation flux to the Opportunity batteries greatly decreased. The mission team had to suspend all scientific operations and put the rover in power saving mode.
The rover stopped communicating on June 10 and so far attempts to contact it have failed. However, the engineers are optimistic - checking the device before the storm showed that the solar panels are in good condition, and the storms themselves play a small role in heating the atmosphere, not allowing it to cool too much. The rover successfully survived the previous dust storms and vortices, the only problems that arose were associated with the deposition of dust on the elements of the rover, from which it later fell off. However, there is a risk that rover batteries will lose some of their available power due to idle time in a discharged state.
Mission engineers predict that Opportunity will need less than 2 tau before the batteries start charging. A wide-angle camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will monitor the clarification of the Mars atmosphere and help scientists assess the transparency of the atmosphere. It is assumed that the rover has either entered sleep mode or that the watch or transmitter has malfunctioned. In any case, an increase in the amount of sunlight should awaken the apparatus. Currently, attempts to establish communication with the rover are carried out several times a week using the distant space communications network and will continue until the moment of success, after which the team will be able to obtain all the necessary information about the state of the rover.
In May, the InSight lander, designed to study the internal structure of Mars, went to Mars, and another Martian device, Trace Gas Orbiter, entered its working orbit around the planet and began transmitting images of its surface to Earth.