NASA’s Opportunity rover hasn’t been sending any signals since the giant dust storm hit Mars turning it into a planet of dust and sand. The storm started on May 30 and grew eventually, thereby taking over the entire planet or most of it within just a few weeks. The entire planet is covered with swirling sand on its surface. With such heavy amount of dust, the solar-powered Opportunity rover hasn’t been able to charge its batteries since then and has entered the state of hibernation.
Ray Arvidson from the Washington University in Saint Louis said that the team hasn’t heard any news from the rover for more than weeks now. The Opportunity rover was not the only rover that was sent on to the planet Mars’ surface. A rover named Spirit was also sent. Both of them landed on different parts of the planet. The opportunity had been doing its job pretty well even after the termination of Spirit rover but the dust storm has now impeded the rover from sending signals to the Earth and doing its part of the job.
According to the experts, the opportunity rover is currently in a low-power mode state where it wakes up to see if can harness sunlight to charge itself and if the charge is too low, it gets back to the hibernation state. Arvidson also stated that when the storm subsides at some point in time, Opportunity needs to wake up from sleep and get the energy to charge itself so that it can transmit the signal from its low-gain antenna saying it is awake and ok, but it is going back to sleep again. This should happen every sol or every Martian day which is 40 minutes longer than that of an earth day unless and until it decides to operate fully.
He also added that there are experts day and night waiting for its response but no low-gain antenna communications have been found yet because of the sandstorm continuing in full force. The storm is taking place on the entire planet Mars and is increasing every day, as stated by Jim Rice, Geology Team leader who has been chosen for the Mars Exploration Rover Project. He is confident that opportunity rover will make it through this storm and would get back into its functioning very soon.