Opportunity Rover Fighting for Its Life During Huge Martian Sand Storm

Huge Dust Storm on Mars Sidelines NASA's Opportunity Rover

Huge Dust Storm on Mars Sidelines NASA's Opportunity Rover

The officials of NASA said, "As soon as the orbiter team saw how close the storm was to Opportunity, they notified the rover's team to begin preparing contingency plans". If those panels don't receive enough sunlight, the batteries will drain and the rover will be unable to power its heating units. The updrafts of dust can trigger more winds, triggering a feedback loop that fuels the birth of a dust storm. The map demonstrated the rising storm with a blue point depicting the location of the Opportunity rover. The measured opacity level of the current storm is 10.8, almost double that of the 2007 event and temperatures in the region have dropped to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 29 degrees Celsius).

Bu this current storm is much, much stronger. In 2007, the rover rode out a similar storm that lasted for two weeks.

Science operations for Opportunity are temporarily suspended while it waits out a Martian dust storm.

As per NASA, as of June 8 (Friday), the tempest covered over 7 million sq miles of the Red Planet (18 million sq km). The rover uses solar panels to provide power and to recharge its batteries.

"Ultimately, the storm subsided and Opportunity prevailed", NASA said. It's now been puttering away up there for 14 years.

On Sunday, Opportunity phoned home, sending a transmission to engineers back on Earth.

A statement put out by the space agency has detailed the circumstances that Opportunity is facing now. At the time, the rover reported an internal temperature of -20 degrees Fahrenheit (-29 Celsius).

Finding methane in the atmosphere and ancient carbon preserved on the surface gives scientists confidence that NASA's Mars 2020 rover and ESA's (European Space Agency's) ExoMars rover will find even more organics, both on the surface and in the shallow subsurface. That led to two weeks of minimal operations, including several days with no contact from the rover to save power.

As with the 2007 dust storm event, there is a very real possibility that should a low-power fault program trip and Opportunity goes to sleep that the rover will not wake up again.

The Opportunity rover has been up on Mars longer than expected, reaching 5,000 Martian days in February. Part of the equipment onboard is a survival heater system, which kick in to keep the batteries at a certain temperature rather than allowing them to get unduly cold.

Opportunity has routinely beaten the odds during its tenure on Mars, has driven farther than any other vehicle on a world other than Earth, and is the longest surviving spacecraft to ever operate on the Martian surface.

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