News & Opinion | January 29, 2019 12:45 pm

NASA Is Trying to Wake Up the Mars Opportunity Rover

The 16-year-old spacecraft has been silent for months.

Mars Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, land on opposite sides of Mars and begin exploring the planet (NASA)
Mars Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, land on opposite sides of Mars and begin exploring the planet (NASA)

The Mars Opportunity rover recently celebrated its sixteenth birthday, far outliving what scientists thought. The past few months, however, have been concerning for the spacecraft as it hasn’t communicated with NASA since falling asleep over six months ago.

According to BDG, during a planet-wide Martian dust storm, the Opportunity rover went to sleep after its solar panels were unable to gather the power it needed to sustain itself. It hasn’t woken up since.

NASA is sending commands to device as a last ditch effort to rouse it.

“We have and will continue to use multiple techniques in our attempts to contact the rover,” John Callas from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said. “These new command strategies are in addition to the ‘sweep and beep’ commands we have been transmitting up to the rover since September.”

Scientist think that the dust storm is to blame. The solar panels might be covered with debris and they hope the windy season on Mars, which began a while ago, will blow away anything hindering the functionality of the solar panels and battery.

The battery, which hasn’t been operating for months, was never created to last this long and if drained, it is feared that the batteries have become damaged during the off time.

NASA is experimenting with new commands that might result in Opportunity waking up from its hibernation.