NASA's Mars Opportunity, which went into hibernation last June after a massive dust storm prevented sunlight from reaching its solar panels to generate energy, may have "died," scientists fear.
The last Earth Opportunity Communication was received on June 10, 2018, when a planetary dust storm covered the location of the solar powered vehicle on the west edge of the Perseverance Valley, blocking so much sunlight that the vehicle could no longer carry their batteries.
Although the storm has finally subsided and the heavens over Perseverance have been cleared, the 15-year-old probe has not communicated with Earth since.
"I do not give up yet.This could be the end.According to this is the end, it's good.I mean," The New York Times quoted Cornell University professor Steven Squyres, principal investigator of the mission, as saying .
If the storm knocked over the rover forever, "it's an honorable death," he added.
In a last-ditch effort, engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., Are broadcasting a new set of commands for Opportunity in an attempt to force the 15-year-old Martian explorer to come in contact with Earth .
The new commands, which will be sent to the rover over the next few weeks, deal with low-probability events that could have occurred aboard Opportunity, preventing its transmission, NASA said.
"We have and will continue to use various techniques in our attempts to contact the rover," said John Callas, Opportunity project manager at JPL.
"Over the past seven months, we've been trying to get in touch with Opportunity over 600 times.
"Although we have not heard of the rover and the likelihood that we are decreasing each day, we plan to continue pursuing all the logical solutions that can bring us back in touch," he said.
The "dust-cleaning station" – the time of year on Mars, when rising winds could clean the rover's dusty solar panels that could be holding back its batteries – is coming to an end.
Meanwhile, Mars is heading for the southern winter, which brings extremely low temperatures that can cause irreparable damage to the batteries of a rover without power, internal wiring and / or computer systems.
Opportunity and its twin robot, Spirit, were released from Cape Canaveral, Fla., In 2003.
Spirit landed on Mars in 2004 and its mission ended in 2011.