Opportunity unresponsive after shutdown

Opportunity prior to launch in 2003.  (Image credit: NASA)

Opportunity prior to launch in 2003.  (Image credit: NASA)

 After a month out of contact with spacecraft on Mars because of the conjunction, mission controllers are beginning to reestablish communication.  It's not looking like things went smoothly for Opportunity, however.  Engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory report that the rover appears to have restarted itself sometime on April 22nd and is now sitting in standby.  During standby, system critical functions and communication channels are maintained, but everything else is powered off.  Such a response can occur if the rover's computer detects problems with its components or due to a software issue.  Normally, flight controllers can return the spacecraft to full power with a command from Earth, but so far Opportunity has not responded.  There are still additional procedures to try, but this is certainly not a good sign.

Opportunity is one of the most successful space exploration missions in history.  Designed to last only ninety days, the rover is well into its tenth year on the surface of the red planet.  Its sister, Spirit, finally succumbed in 2010 after getting stuck in the sand.  Together, these robots have logged more than 32 kilometers of driving on Mars.  The newest rover, Curiosity, landed in the summer of 2012 for a two-year mission.

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