Planetary Radio • Sep 12, 2018

Opportunity, Phone Home!

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On This Episode

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John Callas

Mars Exploration Rover Project Manager for NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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Bruce Betts

Chief Scientist / LightSail Program Manager for The Planetary Society

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Mat Kaplan

Senior Communications Adviser and former Host of Planetary Radio for The Planetary Society

The dust is settling on the Red Planet. Is the remaining Mars Exploration Rover about to rise and shine after three months of slumber? MER Project Manager John Callas returns with a realistic yet hopeful assessment. He also tells us what Opportunity will be asked to do after we hear from her. Planetary Society Senior Editor Emily Lakdawalla returns with a preview of China’s next two missions to the Moon, one of which will make the first-ever farside landing. How close is the nearest black hole? We’ll get the answer as Bruce and Mat explore the night sky in this week’s What’s Up.

Wake up Opportunity!
Wake up Opportunity! In August, the rare planet-encircling dust event (PEDE) that blanketed the Red Planet in June was on the wane. The image above, taken by the Mars Color Imager camera onboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and processed by Bruce Cantor at Malin Space Science Systems (MSSS) was taken near the end of the month. It shows the latest global view of Mars. The tiny dot in upper third of planet represents Opportunity’s location. The MER team is beginning an active listening campaign to re-establish communication with Opportunity in September.Image: NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS
The 2001 cloaking
The 2001 cloaking Two images, taken in 2001 by the Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) onboard the now decommissioned Mars Global Surveyor orbiter, show the dramatic change in the planet's appearance when dust raised by a planet-circling dust event grew and became globally distributed. The images were taken about a month apart. This was the first planetencircling dust event that NASA’s Mars Exploration Program witnessed in 20 years of constant observation. The June 2018 storm, the third such massive storm during the last two decades, seems to be “behaving” a lot like the 2001 planet-encircling dust event, says Mars weatherman Bruce Cantor, of Malin Space Science Systems.Image: NASA / JPL-Caltech / MSSS
Here comes the Sun
Here comes the Sun The Sun came out again at Endeavour Crater in August 2018 as the dust from the global storm began to settle out. By the end of September, the planet encircling dust event, known by its acronym ‘PEDE,’ was over. What Opportunity needs now is, however ironically, more wind.Image: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Cornell / ASU / S. Atkinson

This week's question:

Time again to play Where in the Solar System? Where in the solar system is a crater named Math? (Sadly, unrelated to Mathew Kaplan.)

To submit your answer:

Complete the contest entry form at or write to us at [email protected] no later than Wednesday, September 19th at 8am Pacific Time. Be sure to include your name and mailing address.

Last week's question:

What is the diameter of the Voyager 1 and 2 high-gain antennas?


The answer will be revealed next week.

Question from the August 29 space trivia contest:

What is the closest black hole to Earth that we know of?


At about 3,000 light years from Earth, the nearest black hole is A0620-00, known to its friends as V616 Monocerotis.