In early June, a dust storm began on Mars. Soon it acquired a planetary scale and, according to astronomer Don Banfield of Cornell University, has become one of the most global in the history of observation.
Even at the very beginning of the cataclysm, Space Agency specialists had to suspend the work of the rover in order not to damage the solar panels. He went into crisis, while in the Perseverance Valley.
In mid-August, when the intensity of the storm decreased, the engineers tried to contact the rover, but did not receive a response signal. Then they said that they expect a renewal of communication in a month, when the solar panels of the device again accumulate enough energy. The appointed term will soon come to an end, and no news from Opportunity has been received. Therefore John Callas (John Callas) from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory made an official statement:
“The sun breaks through the haze over the Valley of Perseverance, and soon the light there should be enough to allow Opportunity to charge its batteries. When tau (atmospheric opacity measurement unit) drops below 1.5, we will begin the active search phase by sending signals through the Long-Distance Space Network. We assume that we will hear the answer, and then we will determine its status and return it to the system. ”
The active search period will be 45 days. If specialists do not receive any signals during this time interval, they will pass to the stage of passive search and begin to listen to the records made by the sensitive broadband radio frequency receiver. Passive stage will last until February 2019 and will end in January.
Some scientists, in particular Don Banfield, are skeptical about the possible resumption of communication. The fact is that the dust is still hanging in the atmosphere of Mars and as the tau decreases, it must drop somewhere. In their opinion, the particles can settle on the solar panels of the rover, and then he can not charge the batteries. Engineers do not yet know how to solve this problem. There is only one natural factor that will help solve the problem: in November, the Red Planet will begin a seasonal wind cycle. Thanks to him, the panels can be cleared, but now it is difficult to predict whether it coincides with the active search phase.
John Callas added: “It’s like waiting for a missing relative: the more time passes, the less likely it is that he will return. Of course, we should not lose hope, we will listen, but we must be realistic, no matter how hard it may be from an emotional point of view. “