Curiosity snaps a selfie before heading off to new adventures

NASA attempts to force Opportunity rover to phone home

With "sweep and beep", instead of just listening for Opportunity, the project sends instructions to the rover to reply back with a beep.

In a statement on Friday, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory that its engineers have embarked on transmitting a new set of signals created to wake up the dormant vehicle. "These new command strategies are in addition to the "sweep and beep" commands we have been transmitting up to the rover since September". The second scenario could mean that both primary and secondary radios failed and that it can't talk back to Earth. The troubles of the rover, which has long outlived its initial 3-month mission, are believed to have been caused by a huge sandstorm that battered the planet for almost two months during the summer. These commands are created to address events that could have caused Opportunity to fall silent.

"Over the past seven months we have attempted to contact Opportunity over 600 times", Callas said. The rover entered a low-power default state akin to hibernation when its solar panels became shrouded in darkness, and it's thought the dust storm may have caked the hardware in debris, making it hard for it to fill its batteries once more.

A third possibility, NASA said, is that Opportunity's internal clock, which provides a time for the vehicle's computer, is offset, meaning it doesn't know what is the actual time of day.

Meanwhile, Opportunity celebrated its 15th year anniversary exploring the Red Planet this month, becoming the longest-running Mars rover yet.

"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", he said.

That method involves sending commands to the rover to respond with a beep, in the hopes that the rover will re-establish communication. Mars is now moving into southern winter, meaning that the low temperatures in the Perseverance Valley would inflict irreparable damages to NASA's Opportunity Rover's internal wires and computing systems, as well as to its solar-powered batteries. If Opportunity does not respond, the project team would again consult with the Mars Program Office at JPL and NASA Headquarters to determine the path forward.

The Curiosity rover landed on Mars in August 2012 and has more than 12 miles on its odometer. That's 15 years, not too shabby for a mission that was expected to only last 90 days.

Opportunity and its twin craft, Spirit landed on Mars on January 24, 2004.

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