Opportunity fights for life amidst a giant Martian dust storm

Opportunity fights for life amidst a giant Martian dust storm

NASA scientists will continue to monitor Opportunity's status using the agency's Martian orbiters, MRO, Odyssey and MAVEN, as well as NASA's Deep Space Network. NASA has reported that, on Sunday June 10, they received a transmission from the rover, which means it still had enough power to communicate. "The rover needs to balance low levels of charge in its battery with sub-freezing temperatures". Likewise, performing certain actions draws on battery power, but can actually expel energy and raise the rover's temperature. In 2007, Opportunity weathered a large dust storm with a tau of 5.5.

As per a statement by NASA officials, they said that when they have spotted the storm, they notified the rover's team to get prepared for the contingency plans and in some days the storm has ballooned. If the storm lasts too long, then the main issue for NASA is the danger of getting cold, and it may kill the rover.

The Opportunity rover of NASA has been sidelined by a huge dust tempest on Mars, halting the science work of the robot as it hangs around the still-growing storm.

NASA's Opportunity rover is now hunkered down, waiting out a severe dust storm on Mars. More importantly, the swirling dust has raised the atmospheric opacity, or "tau", in the valley in the past few days. NASA compared the conditions to "an extremely smoggy day that blots out sunlight". Despite this, both rovers have vastly exceeded expectations: they were only created to last 90 days each. Faced with dwindling power reserves and no recharge in sight, the JPL team running the rover opted to put it into minimal operations mode.

Major dust storms like the current one are not surprising, but they are infrequent and can crop up suddenly and last weeks, even months.

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This storm is bad, but Opportunity is made of hardy stuff.

On the other hand, if this massive dust storm on Mars is lasting for longer than usual, the rover would experience, once again, the so-called Martian Cold, a phenomenon that destroyed NASA's Spirit Rover, the Opportunity's "brother", in 2010.

Top speed of the vehicle is 50 mm/second (0.18 km/h), and in the time it spent on Mars in managed to travel only 45 kilometers (28 miles), unofficially becoming the single slowest, most expensive self-propelled vehicle. During summer in the south, the Sun warms dust particles, causing them to rise up higher into the sky.

"Ultimately, the storm subsided and Opportunity prevailed", NASA said. During the time, the rover stopped phoning in to NASA to save power, defying NASA scientists who had anxious if the rover would be able to power its vital survival heaters with the low power levels caused by that dust storm.

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