NASA Mission Update Jet Propulsion Laboratory Pasadena, Calif.
Updated at 2:15 p.m. PDT on Oct. 11, 2018
One month since increasing their commanding frequency, engineers have yet to hear from NASA’s Opportunity rover.
NASA hasn’t set any deadlines for the mission but will be briefed later this month on the progress and prospects for the recovery campaign being carried out at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
JPL engineers are employing a combination of listening and commanding methods in case Opportunity is still operational. It’s possible that a layer of dust deposited on the rover’s solar panels by the recent global dust storm is blocking sunlight that could recharge its batteries. No one can tell just how much dust has been deposited on its panels.
A windy period on Mars — known to Opportunity’s team as “dust-clearing season” — occurs in the November-to-January time frame and has helped clean the rover’s panels in the past. The team remains hopeful that some dust clearing may result in hearing from the rover in this period.
Opportunity has exceeded its expected lifespan many times over. Both Opportunity and its twin, Spirit, were designed to last only 90 days on the Martian surface, with the expectation that the planet’s extreme winters and dust storms could cut their mission short. The rover has lasted nearly 15 years: It last communicated on June 10 before being forced into hibernation by the growing dust storm.
PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA still hasn’t heard from the Opportunity rover, but at least we can see it again.
A new image produced by HiRISE, a high-resolution camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), shows a small object on the slopes of the Red Planet’s Perseverance Valley. That object is Opportunity, which was descending into the Martian valley when a dust storm swept over the region a little more than 100 days ago.
PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — A planet-encircling dust storm on Mars, which was first detected May 30 and halted operations for the Opportunity rover, continues to abate.
With clearing skies over Opportunity’s resting spot in Mars’ Perseverance Valley, engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, believe the nearly 15-year-old, solar-powered rover will soon receive enough sunlight to automatically initiate recovery procedures — if the rover is able to do so. To prepare, the Opportunity mission team has developed a two-step plan to provide the highest probability of successfully communicating with the rover and bringing it back online.
GALE CRATER, Mars (NASA PR) — A storm of tiny dust particles has engulfed much of Mars over the last two weeks and prompted NASA’s Opportunity rover to suspend science operations. But across the planet, NASA’s Curiosity rover, which has been studying Martian soil at Gale Crater, is expected to remain largely unaffected by the dust. While Opportunity is powered by sunlight, which is blotted out by dust at its current location, Curiosity has a nuclear-powered battery that runs day and night.
The Martian dust storm has grown in size and is now officially a “planet-encircling” (or “global”) dust event.
PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — One of the thickest dust storms ever observed on Mars has been spreading for the past week and a half. The storm has caused NASA’s Opportunity rover to suspend science operations, but also offers a window for four other spacecraft to learn from the swirling dust.
NASA has three orbiters circling the Red Planet, each equipped with special cameras and other atmospheric instruments. Additionally, NASA’s Curiosity rover has begun to see an increase in dust at its location in Gale Crater.
PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity keeps providing surprises about the Red Planet, most recently with observations of possible “rock stripes.”
The ground texture seen in recent images from the rover resembles a smudged version of very distinctive stone stripes on some mountain slopes on Earth that result from repeated cycles of freezing and thawing of wet soil. But it might also be due to wind, downhill transport, other processes or a combination.
PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — The Sun rose on NASA’s solar-powered Mars rover Opportunity for the 5,000th time on Saturday, sending rays of energy to a golf-cart-size robotic field geologist that continues to provide revelations about the Red Planet.
One of NASA’s two Mars rovers has recorded a compelling saga of environmental changes that occurred over billions of years at a Martian crater.
The Mars rover, Opportunity, surveyed the rim and interior of Victoria Crater on the Red Planet from September 2006 through August 2008. Key findings from that work, reported in the May 22 edition of the journal Science, reinforce and expand what researchers learned from Opportunity’s exploration of two smaller craters after landing on Mars in 2004.
NASA rovers Spirit and Opportunity may still have big achievements ahead as they approach the fifth anniversaries of their memorable landings on Mars.
Of the hundreds of engineers and scientists who cheered at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., on Jan. 3, 2004, when Spirit landed safely, and 21 days later when Opportunity followed suit, none predicted the team would still be operating both rovers in 2009.
A small motor in the robotic arm of NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity that began stalling occasionally more than two years ago has become more troublesome recently.
Rover engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., are diagnosing why the motor, one of five in the robotic arm, stalled on April 14 after much less motion that day than in the case of several earlier stalls. They are also examining whether the motor can be used and assessing the impact on Opportunity’s work if the motor were no longer usable.
The motor controls sideways motion at the shoulder joint of the rover robotic arm. Other motors provide up-and-down motion at the shoulder and maneuverability at the elbow and wrist. A turret at the end of the arm has four tools that the arm places in contact with rocks and soils to study their composition and texture.
“Even under the worst-case scenario for this motor, Opportunity still has the capability to do some contact science with the arm,” said JPL’s John Callas, project manager for the twin rovers Opportunity and Spirit. “The vehicle has quite a bit of versatility to continue the high-priority investigations in Victoria Crater and back out on the Meridiani plains after exiting the crater.”
NASA’s Science group has seen an abrupt turnover in its top leadership. S. Alan Stern, associate administrator for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate, announced his resignation on Wednesday. John Mather, the directorate’s chief scientist, is also reported to be heading back to his full-time position on the James Webb Space Telescope program.
“Alan has rendered invaluable service to NASA as the Principal Investigator for the Pluto/New Horizons mission, as a member of the NASA Advisory Council, and as the associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate,” Administrator Mike Griffin said in a statement. “While I deeply regret his decision to leave NASA, I understand his reasons for doing so, and wish him all the best in his future endeavors.”
Two-thirds of the agency’s new programs are over-budget or behind schedule.
“NASA’s nearly stagnant budget requires the agency to cut projects to make up for unexpected expenses, and cost overruns nearly shut down one of the rovers on Mars â€” until it got a reprieve Tuesday. They also threaten completion of a climate-change satellite called Glory,” the paper reports.
NASA has apparently given a reprieve to the Spirit and Opportunity rovers. The Associated Press reports:
“NASA has no plans to turn off either of the healthy twin Mars rovers to make up for cost overruns faced by a big new rover slated to fly to the Red Planet next year, the space agency said.
“In a rare move, NASA said it rescinded a letter sent last week to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena that directed budget cuts to the Mars exploration program, including a $4 million reduction from the rovers project.”
Space.com is reporting that NASA has ordered a 40 percent cut in the operating budgets for the Spirit and Opportunity Mars rovers over the next 18 months. The change involves a $4 million cut in the remaining FY 2008 budget and an $8 million reduction for FY 2009. It costs about $20 million annually to operate the two rovers.
NASA officials said there are no plans to “cancel” the mission of the two Mars Exploration Rovers, which have been on the Martian surface since 2004. An official told CNN that the cuts were being made to help balance overruns in the Mars Science Laboratory, which is set for launch next year. All three missions are managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.