September 9, 2018: NASA Focuses on Recovering Opportunity as Storm Diminishes and Dust Settles: The dust raising power of the storms that wrapped Mars in a cloud in June and July diminished in August, sending all that powdery stuff back down onto the surface of the Red Planet. On Earth, the Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) reviewed recovery plans, conducted additional simulations, and began wrapping the month with newfound reasons to believe Opportunity can emerge from her hibernation.
Then, on August 30th, NASA and JPL, home to all NASA’s Mars spacecraft, issued a press release announcing that the MER mission would soon begin “a two-step plan to provide the highest probability of successfully communicating with the rover and bringing it back online.”
Step one will be a period of actively attempting to communicate with the rover by sending it commands through NASA’s Deep Space Network (DSN) antennas. “Assuming that we hear back from Opportunity, we will begin the process of discerning its status, and bringing it back online,” MER Project Manager John Callas stated in the release.
That effort – which could begin as early as September 10th – will last 45 days, according to the press release. If that 45-day effort does not succeed in picking up a signal from Opportunity, a small core group of MER team members would stay on for “several months” more to continue listening “passively.”
Forty-five days is all most people took in. With no live press conference and what read like a rushed out release, forty-five days is what people read and what they spread. The end seemed near. What “passive listening” and that part of the effort actually meant for Opportunity was not explained and was all but lost in furious translation as the story hit the most popular social media sites and science hangouts before moving into the mainstream news.
Over the next few days, there was reaction and confusion about what was going to happen to Opportunity. Even before the dust had a chance to settle on Earth, one thing became immediately clear: this rover is still loved around the world. It also seemed clear that there was more to this story than was being reported or understood… [More at link]