NASA Mars rover UPDATE: NASA pictures Opportunity for the first time in FOUR MONTHS

The remote exploration rover hunkered down on June 12 this year after a planet-sized dust storm engulfed the entire Red Planet.

has had no contact with the robot since June 10 and all hopes of recovery looked dire – until now.

A high-resolution snapshot of Mars taken by the HiRISE orbital camera from a height of 166 miles (267 km) revealed Opportunity’s location in Mars’ Perseverance Valley.

The NASA rover is nothing more than a pinprick of brightly coloured pixels in the photo.

But the picture suggests NASA is now on track to rescue the device.

The agency said: “NASA still hasn’t heard from the Opportunity rover, but at least we can see it again.

“A new image produced by HiRISE, a high-resolution camera aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), shows a small object on the slopes of the Red Planet’s Perseverance Valley.

“That object is Opportunity, which was descending into the Martian valley when a dust storm swept over the region a little more than 100 days ago.”

The raging storm, which began brewing earlier in May this year, completely choked out the skies over Mars, forcing Opportunity to power down.

The NASA rover had to go into hibernation mode as a result of the storm in a bid to protect its solar-charged batteries.

Without access to direct sunlight, all communication between NASA and Opportunity was lost.

On September 11, NASA’s experts at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, increased the frequency of commands they beamed to the rover.

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By September 18, NASA said it has not received a return signal from Opportunity in nearly 100 days.

NASA said: “It is expected that Opportunity has experienced a low-power fault, perhaps, a mission clock fault and an up-loss timer fault.

“The dust storm on Mars continues its decay with atmospheric opacity – tau – over the rover site below 1.5.

“The project has been listening for the rover over a broad range of times using the Deep Space Network Radio Science Receiver and commanding ‘sweep and beeps’ to address a possible complexity with certain conditions within the mission clock fault.”

In order for Opportunity to recharge its batteries, the tau measurement over Perseverance Valley will have to fall below 2.0.

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On September 20, when the photo was snapped, the tau is estimated to have been around 1.3.

Opportunity rover launched towards Mars on July 7, 2003, and has been in active duty since 2004.

The rover’s main goal was to study the surface of Mars and its rocks for evidence of Mars’s ancient liquid past.

NASA originally intended for the Opportunity mission to last only 90 days but the intrepid rover has been studying Mars for 14 years now.

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