Opportunity Rover Still MIA Despite Promising Signal Blip

NASA has confirmed that the signal they thought was from the dormant Opportunity Rover was a false alarm.
Jessica Miley
Opportunity rover is still lost on MarsNASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

NASA officials could not hide their excitement yesterday when the Deep Space Network (DSN) looked like it might have picked up a signal from the Mars rover Opportunity.

The rover known as Oppy has been dormant since dust storms blocked the solar power rover from recharging forcing the Mars explorer into an unintended hibernation.

With hope, officials at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, which manages Opportunity's mission, tweeted: "Today http://eyes.nasa.gov/dsn/dsn.html showed what looked like a signal from @MarsRovers Opportunity. As much as we'd like to say this was an #OppyPhoneHome moment, further investigation shows these signals were not an Opportunity transmission.” 

Radio Signals raise hopes

“Test data or false positives can make it look like a given spacecraft is active on http://eyes.nasa.gov/dsn/dsn.html. We miss @MarsRovers Opportunity, and would be overjoyed to share a verified signal with you. Our work to re-establish comms continues," JPL officials added in another tweet. 

NASA will continue to send messages to Oppy and listen for responses until at least January. Scientists hope that Oppy is out of service only due to the strong storms that caused so much dust to rise that it blocked the sun. 

Oppy could recharge if dust settles

In the best case scenario, the dust will settle after blowing off Oppy’s panels allowing it to recharge and send a message home. The storms occurred mid-June but had already calmed down by the next month.


By mid-September, the weather had cleared enough NASA felt confident that they could start the active listening campaign that will continue until January that involves pinging Oppy and listening for a response. 

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Opportunity has been on Mars since January 2004. The Rover has been integral in gathering data about the red planet's water sources.

The Deep Space Network which believed it spotted the long-missed rover is NASA’s international array of giant radio antennas that supports interplanetary spacecraft missions. The DSN is operated by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and consists of three facilities spaced equidistant from each other around the world to allow for constant communication with spacecraft.