NASA's Mars 'Opportunity' Rover May Be Lost in Massive Dust Storm

17 June, 2018, 01:42 | Author: Darnell Taylor
  • These two views from NASA's Curiosity rover- from June 7 left and June 10- show how dust has increased over three days from a major Martian dust storm

Another NASA rover called Curiosity, which arrived on Mars in 2012, does not face the same level of threat from the storm, which was detected on May 30.

Engineers last received a transmission from the 15-year-old Opportunity on Sunday morning.

As it stands, the rover's mission clock which is programmed to wake the computer so it can check power levels, is the only function still operational.

Mission engineers are doubtful that the rover has enough sunlight to charge back up for at least the next several days. Besides Curiosity and Opportunity on the surface, a whopping six orbiters circle the red planet, gathering data for NASA, the European Space Agency, Russia's Roscosmos, and the Indian Space Research Organization.

He said: "The situation on Mars really highlights the key question about Mars today, which is 'why do these massive widespread dust events occur in some years but not in other years?'" The storm has been growing since the end of May with unprecedented speed.

The dust storms help scientists understand the Martian climate and how the landscape responds to intense weather conditions "Each observation of these large storms brings us closer to being able to model these events - and maybe, someday, being able to forecast them", said Rich Zurek, chief scientist for the Mars Program Office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

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When the storm struck, Opportunity was tooling around near a channel to see if it might have been created by flowing water, wind erosion, or something else. They can last weeks, or even months at the longest.

An vast 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. "This would be like forecasting El Niño events on Earth, or the severity of upcoming hurricane seasons".

Martian dust storms are commonplace.

A record dust storm has been swirling on Mars for almost two weeks. It is now located in the Perseverance Valley of Mars near the center of the storm.

NASA's two other orbiters - 2001 Mars Odyssey and MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) - also provide unique science views.

"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". It could take several more days before it is known whether the storm is encircling the entire planet.

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