On May 30, a big dust storm was spotted for the first time on the surface of Mars. At the time, NASA’s 15-year old Opportunity rover was right in its path. This resulted in a rough couple of weeks for it and it seems that now, the dust storm has only gotten bigger and more dangerous. For example, on June 12, it already reached 14 million square miles. This means that it was covering about a quarter of the planet. Moreover, earlier this week, NASA confirmed that the storm has engulfed the Red Planet completely and it doesn’t show any signs of stopping soon.
It’s important to note that when the storm hit, Opportunity put itself in a low power mode, to preserve energy. There is another rover on Mars, Curiosity, but that one is nuclear powered. So far, it has been analyzing the effects of the dust storm on the other side of Mars. According to a NASA Rover Status Report, Opportunity has not emitted any signal. There have been efforts to listen in case it may want to communicate during its fault window. However, according to a recent analysis, it seems that Opportunity internals can stay warm long enough to function, despite the extremely cold conditions on the Red Planet.
A dust storm has swallowed the entire Red Planet
It seems that NASA is still listening to the rover every day, in the hope of hearing something useful or hopeful from Opportunity. This might seem like s stressful situation, but it’s worth noting that Opportunity has gone through a lot of dangerous situations in the past. For example, back in 2007, it endured an even larger dust storm, also on Mars. Opportunity also had a partner called Spirit which, unfortunately, is now defunct. NASA says that the rover will most likely survive this storm, even if it wasn’t designed to do so.
Image source: wikimedia