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There's only a short window of Opportunity left

In a follow up to our article “Will Opportunity Rover ever Phone-Home again?”, it has been revealed that NASA plan to end their active efforts to restore contact with Opportunity.

After having been silent for more than four months, following a major dust storm, efforts to contact the Opportunity Mars rover are expected to end soon. NASA will however, continue to listen for signals from the spacecraft for months to come.

The rover has been on Mars since January 2004, and last contacted Earth this year on June 10. A strong dust storm blocked the sun and meant that the rover’s solar panel was block, putting it into low-power mode. Since then NASA’s controllers have been implementing an effort known as “active listening” where they transmitted commands to the rover in the event it was unable to revive itself and listened for any transmissions by the rover in response.

After more than a month, the rover has missed every opportunity to respond to the commands from NASA and so soon the active listening effort will end. Lori Glaze, acting director of NASA’s planetary science division, said “we intend to keep pinging Opportunity on a daily basis for at least another week or two”.  Glaze said that a factor in ending the active listening campaign is to prepare for the landing of the InSight Spacecraft on Mars Nov. 26th. Doing this will ensure that all orbital assets are focused on a successful landing of insight.

Some former rover controllers have been critical about this plan, arguing that there hasn’t been enough time to see if Opportunity could be revived. NASA countered that once the active listening effort ends, it will still listen for any transmissions from the robot but will not transmit any commands to it.

For now, the active listening effort continues, with rover controllers playing a “wakeup song” each day. But when this active listening ends, it will be a case of waiting to see if Opportunity knocks.