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NASA ramps up efforts to reach Opportunity rover on Mars

NASA holds out hope for the rover's survival as the Martian dust settles.

A NASA illustration shows what Opportunity would look like on Mars.

NASA

Opportunity, the plucky rover that long outlasted its original Mars mission that started in 2004, is still out of touch with Earth, but NASA is now pushing harder to get a glimmer of life from the faithful machine.

The rover has been silent since June 10 because of a global dust storm blotting out the sun and forcing the vehicle into hibernation. 

At the end of August, NASA announced a plan to communicate with the rover. NASA updated that plan on Tuesday after finding that the atmospheric dust had decreased enough for the rover's solar array to hopefully get more sunlight. 

The original plan was for NASA to beam commands through its Deep Space Network dishes several times a week. It's now sending commands multiple times per day. 

While NASA is reaching out, it also has some ears tuned to Mars. "Passive listening for Opportunity will also continue to be performed by JPL's Radio Science Group, which records radio signals emanating from Mars with a very sensitive broadband receiver," the space agency said.

NASA intends to listen for the rover through at least January 2019. There's some hope that a dust devil could arrive to help sweep the dust off Opportunity's solar array, allowing it to recharge and recover.

"We are pulling for our tenacious rover to pull her feet from the fire one more time. And if she does, we will be there to hear her," said Opportunity project manager John Callas.  

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