NASA’s Opportunity rover has had an incredible career already, spending years upon years studying the Martian surface and proving to be an incredibly reliable and hardy piece of hardware. Unfortunately, a NASA dust storm that began kicking up in May may have abruptly ended its historic run.
In mid-June, the solar-powered Opportunity ran out of juice and was forced to go into its dormant standby mode. The dust storm which swallowed the entirety of Mars had blocked out the Sun, cutting the rover off of its only available source of power. NASA engineers had remained optimistic that the rover would wake back up when the skies began to clear, but things aren’t looking good thus far.
“Morale has been a little shaky,” Michael Staab of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory told Space.com. “This is the first time she has stopped talking to us and not resumed communication when we expected.”
That’s…not great news. NASA knew that the rover would be forced to sit dormant for a while because of the intensity of the storm, but that was several weeks ago. The dust has since began to settle, and enough light should be pushing its way down to the surface to begin recharging Opportunity’s batteries once again.
The rover is designed to lay quiet when power is low, only waking up every so often to check its batteries and gauge how much power it has to work with. If that reading comes up short of what the rover wants, it goes back to sleep and checks again later. If things are working correctly, the batteries should now be gathering power once more, but it’s unclear how long it’s going to take for power levels to reach acceptable levels.
Meanwhile, engineers at JPL have been playing inspirational playlists in hopes of waking the rover back up. Songs like “Here Comes The Sun” and “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” are favorites among the scientists, but for now it doesn’t seem as though Opportunity is listening.