NASA announced that Mars rover Opportunity recovered from a glitch that forced the rover into standby mode on April 22.
“Opportunity rover is back under ground control, executing a sequence of commands sent by the rover team,” reported a NASA statement. “Opportunity is no longer in standby automode and has resumed normal operations.”
Both Opportunity and Curiosity had to undergo a moratorium on command receipt in April because Mars was in a solar conjunction, passing nearly behind the Sun. This planetary alignment occurs every 26 months and it affects all spacecraft operating on Mars, since the Sun can damage or degrade command signals sent from Earth. Therefore, for the duration of the event, operations are generally suspended.
While Curiosity has reported coming through the conjunction in full health, Opportunity, after three weeks of communications blackout, encountered a minor glitch. When communication was restored on April 27, mission controllers learned of the changed status. According to Mars Exploration Rover Project Manager, John Callas, Opportunity rebooted its flight software while the cameras on the mast were imaging the Sun. The standby mode or automode, in which the rover was found when communication was reestablished, is used to maintain power balance and communication schedules while waiting for commands from the ground. The controllers prepared a set of commands to send to the rover to resume operation, on April 29.
Opportunity has been working on Mars for more than nine years, after landing in January 2004 along with its twin, Spirit. The original life span of the mission was three months, searching for past presence of water on the surface of the Red Planet. The mission was so successful, with the two rovers finding plenty of evidence, that they were kept operative long beyond their originally intended lifespans. Although Spirit was declared dead in 2010, Opportunity is still active, and not showing signs of slowing down. Opportunity is currently exploring an area along the edge of the Endeavour Crater that may have been suitable for supporting life. The rover has already covered 35.65 kilometers on the Red Planet, close to the record of USSR’s Lunokhod 2 rover which covered 37 km on the Moon between January and May 1973.
This article was written by Matteo Emanuelli and originally appeared in Space Safety Magazine. It can be reviewed here: Opportunity
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