NASA makes last attempts to communicate with Opportunity rover on Mars

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Illustration of a NASA Mars Exploration Rover at work on Mars. Opportunity was the second of two Mars Exploration Rovers to land on the Red Planet in 2004 to search for signs of past life. (Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 12 (Xinhua) -- NASA is making last attempts to communicate with Opportunity rover on Mars, said a NASA release on Tuesday.

The agency will update Opportunity's status on Wednesday at a press conference in the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.

The briefing will be attended by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, Associate Administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate Thomas Zurbuchen, Acting Director of NASA's Planetary Science Division Lori Glaze and JPL Director Michael Watkins.

If there is no response by Wednesday -- which NASA suspects will be the case -- Opportunity might be declared dead, 15 years after arriving at the red planet, according to media reports.

The rover has not been heard from for eight months since a planet-wide dust storm on Mars in June last year. Although the storm eventually abated and the Martian skies cleared, the rover has not communicated with Earth since then.

Mission team members have been trying to rouse the rover ever since, and they've been listening for any possible signals from Opportunity as well.

In late January, NASA has developed a new, more powerful collection of commands to try to force the rover to resume operations. However, nothing was heard from Opportunity so far.

Opportunity landed on Mars on Jan. 24, 2004. The golf-cart-sized rover was designed to travel 1,006 meters and operate on the Red Planet for 90 Martian days. It had traveled over 45 km and logged its 5,000th Martian day back in February 2018.