The Opportunity Mars rover might be keeping quiet, NASA hasn't given up on the unmanned explorer. Though there has been no contact with Opportunity since June 10 and a 45-day rescue operation has not produced any response from the robotic vehicle, the space agency says that it is extending recovery attempts until at least January 2019.

According to NASA in an October 29 status update, the extension came after an extensive review of the rescue efforts that have been underway since mid-September. Radio contact with Opportunity was lost after Mars was engulfed by a global dust storm in May, blotting out the Sun and depriving the rover's solar panels of power. The last radio signals were received by mission control on June 10 and it is believed that the craft went into total shutdown as its batteries drained.

After the storm abated in September, NASA engineers hoped that the return of the Sun would recharge the rover and wake it up again. When no signals were received, the space agency started a 45-day campaign to send multiple wake up signals throughout the day followed by periods of listening for any replies. So far, none have been received from the Red Planet.

The fear is that the loss of power was so severe that the electronics onboard Opportunity froze or the battery has been too severely damaged to retain a charge. However, NASA is holding out hope that the silence is due to the solar panels being coated with a layer of fine dust. The time between November and January is known to the Opportunity team as "dust-clearing season" in the Northern Hemisphere as gusts of high winds build up that could blow the panels clean.

In light of this, NASA will extend the active efforts to regain contact with Opportunity into the new year. After that, another reassessment will be made before deciding on the next course of action.

Source: NASA