At the beginning of this month, NASA enacted a communications moratorium with its spacecraft on Mars, an event that had been planned as a safety precaution against possible corrupted commands caused by the sun during particular planetary alignment. The moratorium has come to an end, revealing the rover Opportunity put itself into standby at some point during a routine camera check.
The discovery was made on April 27, and NASA prepared a new set of commands yesterday that will pull the rover back into a regular functioning mode, something it has been waiting for since going into the specific type of standby mode. It wasn't down long, however, having reverted to that mode last week on April 22. Unlike Curiosity, Opportunity has called Mars its home for nearly a decade.
NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Project Manager John Callas said: "Our current suspicion is that Opportunity rebooted its flight software, possibly while the cameras on the mast were imaging the sun. We found the rover in a standby state called automode, in which it maintains power balance and communication schedules, but waits for instructions from the ground. We crafted our solar conjunction plan to be resilient to this kind of rover reset, if it were to occur."
Although the communications moratorium came to its end for Opportunity, it is still in effect for the Curiosity rover, which is set to resume its communications with the ground tomorrow. NASA says that thus far information received from the rover shows that it has made it through its mini vacation without incident, and as such is slated to receive its first set of commands on May 1.