NASA rover is threatened by a huge sandstorm on Mars

17 June, 2018, 01:44 | Author: Kelly Sanders
  • Nasa concerned about future of Opportunity rover as huge storm takes over MarsMore

Controllers expect it will be several more days before there is enough sunlight to recharge Opportunity's battery through its solar panels. "It's like you have a loved one in a coma in the hospital".

"Out of those seasonal storms that do occur only about a dozen or so have ever, in the historical record or the modern record, expanded to circle the planet or cover the globe". But with the vast dust storm covering about a quarter of the planet for the past two weeks, the rover has run out of power.

NASA's scientific Opportunity robotic rover Opportunity has been found in the midst of a bad sandstorm on Mars, which has forced it to silence and no longer communicate with the Earth, and there are fears about its own survival.

NASA's two orbiters, the 2001 Mars Odyssey and MAVEN, can help scientists observe the storms growth and movements from above, as well as measure the levels of dust in the atmosphere.

The Curiosity rover is now entrenched in the Gale Crater area where dust activity is starting to pick up.

"The project team is very concerned", said John Callas, the mission's project manager based at the nearby Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The rover needs help from heaters to protect its batteries, much like running a vehicle in the winter to protect battery life.


"We're all pulling for Opportunity", said Jim Watzin, the director of the Mars exploration programme at Nasa. "Knowing and understanding how these storms behave ahead of more ambitious missions, it is essential that we learn to monitor and predict storms".

An enormous dust storm that may soon encircle Mars is threatening one of NASA's rovers on the planet's surface, with the vehicle becoming dormant and unresponsive at a site called Perseverance Valley, U.S. space agency officials said on Wednesday. But the storm is still growing and should encircle the planet in a matter of days. The thin atmosphere makes these events different from storms on Earth; even the most powerful Martian winds couldn't topple a rover.

"Each observation of these large storms brings us closer to being able to model these events - and maybe, someday, being able to forecast them", Zurek said. Spacecraft orbiting Mars are too high to be affected.

"Dust on Mars gets lofted tens of kilometers into the air and in such quantities - like now - that it significantly changes the sunlight reaching the ground and the heat deposited in the air from the sunlight". The engineers fear that the rover may end up there without completing its mission.

NASA says the solar-powered craft stopped responding on June 12, but all hope isn't lost. It's been a remarkably resilient rover.

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