Da rude sand storm seizes the Opportunity, threatens to KO rover

Nasa's brave Mars Rover could be killed by massive Martian dust storm

Nasa's brave Mars Rover could be killed by massive Martian dust storm

The storm has blanketed 14 million square miles of Mars, or about a quarter of the planet, which is now inhabited only by active and inactive robots.

It's currently being battered by a storm that has been growing since the end of May and now covers a quarter of the planet.

The Mars dust storm was spied by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's team on June 1, which then alerted the Opportunity rover's team.

And there isn't any danger of the rover being buried by dust, although clearing it off once the storm subsides may be another challenge. The culprit? A dust storm blocked out a record amount of sunlight on the Martian surface, leaving the rover critically short of power.

Mars Opportunity Rover has shut everything down except its master clock after Martian dust storm.

Scientists aren't almost as concerned about the newer, nuclear-powered Curiosity rover on the other side of Mars, which is already seeing darkening skies. Several days have passed and the storm still rages on.

Watzin said that the main instruments used to guide InSight for a landing, an inertial measurement unit and radar, wouldn't be adversely affected by dust if a storm is taking place.

Flight controllers tried to contact Opportunity, but the rover did not respond. The agency expects Opportunity shifted into a "low power fault mode", which disables all systems except the mission clock, reducing power usage from scarce energy stored in its batteries.

The mission clock will trigger the computer to turn back on to check power levels sporadically, NASA said.

The image above shows progressive views from Opportunity's mastcam, as the dust storm intensified since it was first spotted on May 30, 2018.

Beyond power loss, there is concern about frigid conditions, though Callas said Opportunity should stay above its minimum-allowable operating temperatures "for the long term". Engineers will monitor the rover's power levels closely in the week to come. But Opportunity has never faced anything as formidable as the current dust storm on Mars.

Its mission was initially meant to last just 90 days.

"We think we can ride this out for a while".

The exploration rover relies on light to run its solar panels, which charge its internal battery and generate power for its heaters.

"It's like you have a loved one in a coma in the hospital, the doctors are telling you you've just got to give it time and she'll wake up".

We are concerned but we are hopeful that the storm will clear and the rover will be able to communicate with us.

Back in 2007, a much larger storm covered the planet, which led to two weeks of minimal operations and no communications.

Scientists said the swirling dust has created an extreme smog that blots out sunlight.

They can last between a few weeks to a few months.

Spirit finally went silent on March 22, 2010, stuck in deep sand and unable to favorably orient itself so its solar arrays could face the low-altitude sun during the harsh martian winter.

Launched from Cape Canaveral on July 7, 2003, Opportunity landed on the red planet five-and-a-half months later, on January 24, 2004, three weeks after a twin rover, Spirit, bounced to an airbag-cushioned landing on the other side of the planet.

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