Guest Reblog: “Opportunity Under Threat,” by The Road To Endeavour

September 22, 2018:

sols 5203 to 5209, Sept. 12, 2018 – Sept. 18, 2018: No Signal Has Been Heard From Opportunity for Nearly 100 Days

The Opportunity team is increasing the frequency of commands it beams to the rover via the dishes of NASA’s Deep Space Network from three times a week to multiple times per day.

No signal from Opportunity has been heard since Sol 5111 (June 10, 2018). That’s nearly 100 sols (days) without communication. It is expected that Opportunity has experienced a low-power fault, perhaps, a mission clock fault and an up-loss timer fault. The dust storm on Mars continues its decay with atmospheric opacity (tau) over the rover site below 1.5. The project has been listening for the rover over a broad range of times using the Deep Space Network Radio Science Receiver and commanding “sweep and beeps” to address a possible complexity with certain conditions within the mission clock fault.

Total odometry is 28.06 miles (45.16 kilometers.

NASA/MER program

September 11, 2018:

Updated at 2:45 p.m. PDT on Sept. 11, 2018

Scientists reviewing data from the Mars Color Imager (MARCI) aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) have determined that the tau estimate (a measure of the amount of haze in the Martian atmosphere) in the skies above the rover Opportunity has been below 1.5 for two consecutive measurements. With more sunlight reaching the rover’s solar array, the Opportunity team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, are increasing the frequency of commands it beams to the 14-plus-year-old rover via the dishes of NASA’s Deep Space Network from three times a week to multiple times per day. Passive listening for Opportunity will also continue to be performed by JPL’s Radio Science Group, which records radio signals emanating from Mars with a very sensitive broadband receiver…”


Update, September 10, 2018: Still waiting . . .

Original post:

I shared this on Twitter after reading it yesterday but gave it some thought before reblogging it here. After all, Oppy has served long past its “expiration date”; as well, NASA is under pressure–for example, reportedly, Russia won’t be carrying our astronauts up into space any more, starting next year.

But NASA is composed of human beings, who are not perfect. And people everywhere, in every line of work, make questionable decisions; they set overly ambitious goals for themselves (although, give NASA its due–that’s their business, and they usually come through, eventually). People compete. They rise up the ladder and lose touch with some basics.

It’s a part of being human.

I don’t have the knowledge to say whether the 45-day cut-off is a good thing or not; however, I do recognize that we need to reward the ability to design rovers (Spirit was a laster, too) that are even better than expected and to continue their missions as long as possible.

Hopefully, Opportunity will respond soon. But if it doesn’t, let’s give it more time. The people behind it, past and present, deserve that.

Humanity is going into space eventually. Lets bring as much of that 60s spirit of wonder and exploration with us as possible, and only what little “business as usual” mindset is absolutely necessary to keep basic operations functioning.

In the long term, that will work out best for everybody.

For background, here’s the news release that inspired the reblogged post below.

When I started writing this blog – almost ten years ago now – I thought that Opportunity had two, maybe three more years of roving ahead of her. Five at the most. She had already travelled so far, seen so much, made so many discoveries, that to expect many more years than that seemed not […]

via Opportunity Under Threat — The Road To Endeavour


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