CBSN

Mars rover spotted in photo 3 months after it went silent

NASA's Mars Opportunity rover is highlighted in this image from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter as it passed 166 miles overhead. The rover has not communicated with Earth since a dust storm enveloped over the red planet in June, but flight controllers remain hopeful the long-lived robot will eventually wake up and phone home.

NASA

NASA's long-lived Opportunity Mars rover has been silent since June 11 in the wake of a global dust storm that swept around the red planet, blotting out the sun and preventing the rover's batteries from recharging. Despite clearing skies, the rover has yet to wake up, but it's no longer out of sight.

In an image released Tuesday, Opportunity shows up as a small dot-like feature in a high-resolution image captured by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, showing the rover on the slopes of Perseverance Valley 166 miles below. Opportunity was slowly making its way down into the martian valley when the dust storm developed.

Launched in 2003, Opportunity bounced to an airbag-assisted landing in January 2004, kicking off a mission designed to last just three months. But the hardy spacecraft was still on the job 14 years later when it slipped into electronic hibernation after losing power.

NASA's Deep Space Network antennas are listening for any signals from Opportunity indicating an attempt to phone home and are now sending commands "in the blind" in hopes of helping the rover, if it is still able, to reset its internal clock and resume communications.

  • William Harwood

    Bill Harwood has been covering the U.S. space program full-time since 1984, first as Cape Canaveral bureau chief for United Press International and now as a consultant for CBS News. He covered 129 space shuttle missions, every interplanetary flight since Voyager 2's flyby of Neptune and scores of commercial and military launches. Based at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Harwood is a devoted amateur astronomer and co-author of "Comm Check: The Final Flight of Shuttle Columbia."