As the dust clears on Mars, Opportunity appears
After more than three months, NASA’s rover is seen again. Andrew Masterson reports.
More than 100 days ago a massive dust storm swept across the surface of Mars, completely covering NASA’s Opportunity rover.
At the time, the 14 year-old machine was slowly descending into a region known as Perseverance Valley. The dust blocked sunlight from reaching the planet’s surface, and sent the solar-powered Opportunity into shutdown.
Because the rover is old, and has been going way longer than its designers predicted, there were concerns that the harsh, dusty buffeting it was subjected to by the storm might spell its end.
And that might still be the case. The rover team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory still hasn’t heard from Opportunity.
Now, however, it has at least – and at last – seen it again. An image relayed by a high-resolution camera aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) clearly shows a tiny object on the slopes of Perseverance Valley.
Even though the image was captured from a height of 267 kilometres above the Martian surface, the folks at mission control are certain the speck is Opportunity.
Externally, at least, the rover weathered the storm. Time will tell if its circuits did the same.