NASA’s Opportunity rover is seen but not heard

Opportunity on Mars
A high-resolution image from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows the Opportunity rover as a bright blip inside the white box. The box marks a 154-foot-wide area in Mars’ Perseverance Valley. Click on the image for a larger version. (NASA / JPL-Caltech / Univ. of Arizona Photo)

NASA’s Opportunity rover still hasn’t made contact after a weeks-long Martian dust storm forced it to go into hibernation, but at least the skies are now clear enough to spot the solar-powered robot from orbit.

And mission managers say they’re a long way from giving up on Opportunity, which began its work on the surface of Mars almost 15 years ago.

Oppy shows up as a blip on the slopes of Perseverance Valley in a color image captured Sept. 20 by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter’s High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, or HiRISE, from a height of 166 miles.

The orbiter’s clear view raises hopes that winds will sweep dust off Opportunity’s solar panels, as has happened several times before, and allow the rover to build up enough power to resume transmissions.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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