A recent dust storm on Mars has made NASA’s Opportunity rover weak and is unable to perform as it is expected to. NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter first identified this dust storm, stated NASA official’s.
“Soon after orbiter team realised how close storm was coming to Opportunity, rover’s team were made aware of this, and they started making a plan to cope up with this uncertain event,” said one of the NASA official.
Till June 8 this storm had already covered 7 million square miles and even more than that on Mars. This is an area which is expected to be larger than the area covered by entire North America on Earth. Although this dust storm event is not shocking as it had occured previously, they do not frequently occur, once they occur they can last for even months. NASA official said.
This dust storm has covered a vast area which included Perseverance Valley and current region of Opportunity, i.e. Meridiani Planum.
Opportunity runs using solar power, and it has been on mars and exploring it since 2004. With this dust storm, the ability of Opportunity to get itself charged using sunlight has fallen. NASA said that it is like a very smoggy day where one cannot quickly get sunlight.
It has been noticed on June 6 that the power level of Opportunity has dropped to a significant point because of which forcefully all science had been stopped. By doing so, power was conserved. With this storm, a significant concern is Martin Cold if this storm lasts for a very long time. This is a danger which earlier Opportunity has faced, NASA official said.
If storm lasts long, it will be dangerous for rover as Opportunity will get too cold while it has to wait for skies getting clear, written by NASA. The reason behind the loss of Spirit rover which was a twin of Opportunity in the year 2010 is believed to be cold.
Opportunity is substantial as compared to others and in the past it has experienced more severe storms than the present one.
Once in 2007 there was a dust storm which had covered a significant portion of Mars, because of this Opportunity was forced to stay at a place and position for almost two weeks. It was a sort of its survival mode. Also as it was unable to charge itself to save power and it had to stop making calls to its controllers for many days. It can be seen that since 15 years Opportunity has been surviving.