Dust Storm: A threat to Opportunity Mars Rover

Opportunity landed on Mars on 24th January 2005, almost five n half months after its launching on 7th July 2003.”Oppy” is the name taken by its fans.

A mission manager at NASA working for Opportunity Mars Rover confirms that Opportunity Mars Rover NASA has lost its contact with the Earth due to a massive dust storm which is blotting out the sun, resulting in hampering the rover’s solar-powered batteries from getting recharged. But due to the emotional attachment with the Rover, the scientists are trying hard to get the skies get cleared that will help to increase power level to rise which will permit rover to connect with home again.

John Callas, a project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, adds up that, the team working for Opportunity has a stronger bond and an emotional attachment to it. “We’re worried about it, of course. We are so much concerned as it is a loved one for us. It feels like that your 97-year-old grandmother is in a coma and you have to wait until she wakes up.” He also said, a dust storm is covering up the sunlight, and it turned out to be a long night for the Opportunity. It has opacity level much higher (11) than the opacity of previous dust storm (5.5) which occurred in 2007. We are expecting that the batteries of the rover will go down to sleep as it is in low power mode right now, and will last into rest until it gets enough energy to charge again up. We are waiting for the rover to wake up and communicate with us, for that checking up for signals on an everyday basis.

The dust storm was growing quickly and enormously; it started affecting the batteries energy level which went down drastically. It was delivering 645 at first then it went down to 345 as the storm began progressing and the other day it was lowered down to 133. If energy level drops down to very low, then the clock will also stop ticking, and it will remain asleep until gets a brighter sky. The computers are designed to check whether the sun is up and send a signal home. Another concern is the cold temperature. Rover has a layer of 8 one-watt plutonium heat sources that it should be able to withstand the cold without more significant damage, as it is not in active state, it is becoming colder.

In the status report, NASA said, these kinds of storms are not new, but not that frequent, they can last for weeks or months. It is expected that the Opportunity Mars Rover will not be affected so adversely by the current dust storm.