A Huge Dust Storm on Mars Is Threatening NASA’s Opportunity Rover

By Niraj Chokshi

A vast dust storm blanketing about a quarter of the surface of Mars has threatened NASA’s Opportunity rover, plunging the solar-powered vehicle into what the space agency has described as a “dark, perpetual night.”

With its primary energy source obscured, the rover, which sits in the Perseverance Valley of Mars near the center of the storm, appears to have automatically entered a power-saving mode in which it will remain until the sun re-emerges, agency officials said.

“We’re concerned, but we’re hopeful that the storm will clear and the rover will begin to communicate with us,” John Callas, the Opportunity project manager, told reporters on a Wednesday conference call with other NASA officials.

Opportunity is at historically low energy levels. The rover weathered another serious storm in 2007, but the current storm is much worse, having intensified more rapidly and more completely blocking out the sun, NASA said.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Opportunity is at historically low energy levels. The rover weathered another serious storm in 2007, but the current storm is much worse, having intensified more rapidly and more completely blocking out the sun, NASA said.

    This is a very old rover – well past its original design life.

    Its twin “Spirit” died when a wheel bearing succomed to the sands of Mars and it got stuck in loose sand.

    The solar powered rovers suffered from dust covering the solar panels in the past, but a fortuitous gust of wind later, cleared off the dust on that occasion.

    The Curiosity Rover, does not have this problem, as – like the probes to the outer Solar-System, it is powered by a Radioisotope thermoelectric generator

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