NASA To Start A 45-Day Campaign to Get Its Mars Rover “Opportunity” Back
NASA plans to soon start a 45-day campaign to restore communication with the Mars rover Opportunity. Opportunity, also known as MER-B or MER-1, is a robotic rover active on Mars since 2004. However, it has been unresponsive ever since after a dust-storm, encircling the planet, cut off solar power last summer. However, some people working on Opportunity are sceptical of NASA’s intention and are saying that NASA might forsake the longest operational Mars spacecraft altogether. Because the cost incurred may become too much for NASA to bear.
Opportunity is not new to such dust scares. Back in 2007, another dust storm hit the rover. However, it wasn’t close to what it is facing now. The storm that it faced this summer was the most massive one Mars has seen in decades.
Ground controllers are unable to get hold of the Mars rover. And the last time they were able to communicate with Opportunity was in June 10th, before the ramboesque dust storm gripped the planet. The storm cut-off the Mars rover from the Sun and left the solar-power driven Opportunity grappling for energy. Opportunity solely relies on its solar panels to gather enough energy from the Sun each day to recharge its batteries, which help power its movement. Without the sunlight, the rover’s capabilities are rendered futile.
However, NASA’s plan is getting a lot of flak because of the 45 day limitation, which is not deemed appropriate by some. Amidst the series of events, some former Opportunity rover drivers took to Twitter to convey their opinions on the matter.
Mike Seibert, a former flight director and rover driver for Opportunity had this to say:
You have to be kidding me. 45 days after a Tau of 1.5. This can't be based on any real analysis of the situation.
— Mike Seibert (@mikeseibert) August 30, 2018
Scott Maxwell, another former Opportunity rover driver didn’t mince his words either.
I'll be blunt: 45 days is absurdly short, and certainly arbitrary. And starting the clock from when tau (atmospheric opacity) reaches 1.5 is … let's say it's not nearly as generous as our trusty, faithful, brave Opportunity deserves. (Tau ~ 0.7 — half that — more reasonable.) https://t.co/vuZhHD4bcK
— Scott Maxwell (@marsroverdriver) August 31, 2018
Not only just the former employees, those currently working on the Opportunity mission are also expressing disappointment and surprise over the 45-day limit to listening efforts. However, NASA has not given them the authority to speak on the record.