Huge Dust Storm on Mars Sidelines NASA's Opportunity Rover

NASA's Opportunity rover may not have to worry about running into traffic congestion on Mars, but vast dust storms are definitely an occupational hazard. This isn't the first storm that Opportunity has weathered, but it is the worst. "In a matter of days, the storm had ballooned". Although dust storms aren't uncommon on Mars, they can be deadly to the rovers. That's an area larger than all of North America on Earth.

"Full dust storms like this one are not surprising, but are infrequent", NASA officials said in the statement. "They can crop up suddenly but last weeks, even months".

The dust has blotted out the Sun in many regions, including Opportunity's current location at Perseverance Valley.

It's hard to complain about Earth weather once you realize just how insane it can get on Mars.

A vast dust storm larger than the entire North American continent is now raging on Mars-and it has forced NASA to suspend the scientific operations of its Opportunity rover.

This global map of Mars shows the dust storm sweeping across the landscape.

During that event 11 years ago, the project's management prepared for the possibility that Opportunity would not be able to balance low levels of power with its energy-intensive survival heaters, which protect its batteries from Mars' extreme cold. Cold is thought to have resulted in the loss of Spirit-Opportunity's twin-in 2010, which became stuck in the Martian sand.

But Opportunity is a survivor.

Science operations for Opportunity are temporarily suspended while it waits out a Martian dust storm.

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.

In 2007, a dust storm on Mars covered the entire planet and forced Opportunity to hunker down for two weeks in a sort of survival-mode of minimal operations.

The U.S. space agency reports in a Sunday afternoon, June 10 update that the data received from Opportunity informed engineers that the rover has enough battery charge to communicate with controllers based in Pasadena, California. Faced with dwindling power reserves and no recharge in sight, the JPL team running the rover opted to put it into minimal operations mode.

In fact, Opportunity has been surviving for 15 years.

Regardless of the outcome, it is extremely important to remember that Opportunity is now in its 14th Earth year of operation of what was supposed to be a 90-day mission when the rover landed on the Meridiani Planum on 25 January 2004. The rover was only created to last 90 days but has vastly exceeded expectation, and is now in its 14 year on the Martian surface.

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