Friday, 19 October, 2018

NASA's Opportunity Rover Hit By Enormous Dust Storm On Mars

Huge Dust Storm on Mars Sidelines NASA's Opportunity Rover NASA Mars rover weathers monster dust storm
Elijah Vega | 13 June, 2018, 21:02

"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", NASA officials said in a statement.

In connection with the storm on the red planet, they were forced to stop the operation of the space Rover. It is one of the largest storms that the rover has had to encounter and there are chances that the rover could become too cold to continue with its experiments. NASA describes the situation as "a dark, perpetual night" shrouding the rover's current home in Perseverance Valley.

Opportunity was designed with weathering huge storms in mind. The latest data transmission showed the rover's temperature is about minus 29 degrees Celsius.

"One saving grace of dust storms is that they can actually limit the extreme temperature swings experienced on the Martian surface", NASA reports.

If that is not enough, and power levels drop to a specific, low level, Opportunity would trip what is known as a low-power fault program, disabling the rover's batteries and putting Opportunity into sleep mode until sufficient available energy returns to wake it up.

Opportunity has been exploring Mars since 2004, but it runs on solar power.

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While Green is confident that humankind will get to Mars within a couple of decades - NASA's target is 2040 - he explains that there are now significant obstacles to reaching this goal.

NASA first caught wind of the dust storm when its Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter detected traces of the emerging weather system on June 1.

Presently, engineers will monitor Opportunity's power levels closely in the week to come.

Having said that, scientists hope that Opportunity can sustain the Martian dust storm because it has seen worst days.

A self-portrait of NASA's Opportunity rover on Mars taken by the Microscopic Imager on the rover's robotic arm to celebrate its 5,000th Martian day in February 2018. Without the heaters, the rover's batteries would likely fail and doom the mission. Despite this, both rovers have vastly exceeded expectations: they were only created to last 90 days each.

"The question of whether life might have originated or existed on Mars is a lot more opportune now that we know that organic molecules were present on its surface at that time". During southern hemisphere (where Opportunity is) summer, sunlight warms dust particles, lifting them higher into the atmosphere and creating more wind. 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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