Curiosity didn’t find life on Mars - But these 2 future rovers might

Huge Dust Storm on Mars Sidelines NASA's Opportunity Rover

NASA Mars rover weathers monster dust storm

Indeed, as of June 8, the storm had swollen to more than 7 million square miles, enveloping Opportunity in the process: the rover's location is marked with a blue dot in the center of the image above. The dust in the atmosphere is impacting the amount of power generated by the rover's solar panels.

According to NASA, the agency's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter first detected the dust storm on Friday, 1 June, and NASA immediately notified Opportunity's teams to begin preparing contingency plans in case the dust storm necessitated a change to the rover's nominal operations. "They can appear unexpectedly but last for weeks or even months". The Opportunity team was informed of the dust storm's close proximity to the rover, giving enough time for preparations.

Opportunity, which was designed for a 90-day mission, has survived on Mars for 15 years, and if it can somehow circumvent this massive dust storm as well, it would be a great compliment to its unwavering tenacity. This produces more wind, which kicks up even more dust, creating a feedback loop. Rovers like Opportunity rely on sunlight to charge their solar panels and batteries.

NASA said, "There is a threat to Opportunity if the tempest continues for too long and rover gets freeze while lingering for the skies to clear".

Huge Dust Storm on Mars Sidelines NASA's Opportunity Rover
NASA’s Opportunity rover, caught in fierce Martian dust storm, sends message back home

The storm hit Perseverance Valley, at the Martian plains of Meridiani Planum, which is the current site where the Opportunity Mars rover is conducting its scientific studies and experiments. It has covered Perseverance Valley, where Opportunity is now located, and has blotted out the sunlight.

Three different types of organic molecules were discovered when the rover dug just 5cm into roughly 3.5-billion-year-old mudstone, a fine-grained sedimentary rock, at Gale crater, apparently the site of a large lake when ancient Mars was warmer and wetter than it is today.

The 2007 storm reached a maximum of 5.5 tau. Despite this, both rovers have vastly exceeded expectations: "they were only created to last 90 days each".

"Engineers will monitor the rover's power levels closely in the week to come". At the time, the rover reported an internal temperature of -20 degrees Fahrenheit (-29 Celsius). Its heaters are vitally important to keeping it alive, but also draw more power from the battery. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter caught sight of the developing bad weather, and the orbiter team passed on a warning to the Opportunity team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology. Without the heaters, the rover's batteries would likely fail and doom the mission.

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