It’s looking like NASA’s Opportunity rover is losing the fight for its life after getting stuck in a huge Martian dust storm.
After 15 years of operation on the Red Planet, the plucky rover went quiet around June 10 as a dust storm the size of North America and Russia combined blanketed a quarter of the planet.
Before it powered down, it snapped these shots of the storm blotting out its energy source – the sun – over a couple of weeks:
NASA called a “spacecraft emergency”. It hoped the rover had simply shut down because the charge in its batteries has fallen below 24 volts.
But by August 4, morale at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California, was dropping and was now “a little shaky”, according to JPL engineer Michael Staab.
He told Space.com that the team had expected communication from Opportunity by now, as the dust storm has been clearing for more than two weeks now.
So they’re trying an old trick. When Opportunity first landed on Mars in January 2004, the team played her a song every day to wake her up.
They gave the daily wake-up call away after three months when it became apparent Opportunity was actually in for the long haul.
15 years later, Staab and the team have rolled the tradition out again, hoping to jog Opportunity’s memory. The obvious honour of being first when to Wham!, but when “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” didn’t get a rise, an admirable playlist began to build.
On it, some of the more obvious references include The Beatles’ “Here Comes The Sun”, Queen’s “Keep Yourself Alive” and Gloria Gaynor’s classic “I Will Survive”.
Queen, David Bowie and Foo Fighters all share the honour of making the list twice, so far.
And it is an honour. The band Kansas reached out to JPL when it heard “Dust in the Wind” was on the list to express their gratitude.
You can tune in for yourself on Spotify:
“We’ll just keep playing until she talks to us,” Staab told Space.com.
“It could take weeks — hopefully not months.
“I wish we had something to share; I wish we had good news. But we keep listening every day.”
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