Nasa Opportunity Mars Rover falls silent as deadly dust storm hits

Share
Nasa Opportunity Mars Rover falls silent as deadly dust storm hits

In the Hollywood movie The Martian, starring Matt Damon, a massive dust storm causes havoc for a manned mission to the Red Planet, forcing early human visitors to abandon the surface. The storm is covering an area of 14 million square miles, or a quarter of the Red Planet, NASA said today in a mission update. Because of the storm, those panels aren't receiving enough sunlight to fully charge up the rover, meaning that it's now trying to save what little power it does have before getting in touch with Earth again. NASA ceased Opportunity's science operations on June 4 as engineers prepared to secure the craft against the storm, Callas said. Luckily, NASA engineers received a transmission from the rover on Sunday, which was a positive indication since it proved that the rover still has enough battery charge to communicate with controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "We're concerned but we're hopeful that the storm will clear and the rover will begin to communicate to us".

An attempt to contact Opportunity Tuesday was not successful. The storm has been growing since the end of May with unprecedented speed.

The extreme cold of Mars is thought to be what killed Opportunity's twin, the Spirit rover, after it got stuck in Martian sand in 2010. Spirit hasn't worked for several years.

Scientists aren't almost as concerned about the newer, nuclear-powered Curiosity rover on the other side of Mars, which is already seeing darkening skies.

Callas said the dust storm had essentially turned day into night for Opportunity as the opacity of the atmosphere, a measure of how effectively the dust is blocking out sunlight, climbed to record levels. Richard Zurek of the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter team described it as just days away from engulfing the entire planet, something that's only been seen a dozen times, and not since 2007.

In the meantime, Opportunity's science operations remain suspended and the Opportunity team has requested additional communications coverage from NASA's Deep Space Network - the global system of antennas that communicates with all of the agency's deep space missions.

By Wednesday, June 6th, Opportunity's power levels had dropped significantly and the rover was required to shift to minimal operations.

It could also pose a threat to the Curiosity rover, which is monitoring the storm from the periphery. Callas said that, on June 2, Opportunity measured an optical depth of 0.6, which is normal for this time of year, and the rover was generating 645 watt-hours.

This time, the rover's energy level is believed to be much lower. On the plus side, Martian summertime is approaching and that should keep temperatures up at night and prevent the batteries and other parts from freezing. Besides electrical heaters, Opportunity is equipped with eight tiny plutonium-powered heaters.

Scientists are eager to learn as much as they can about the dust storm to hone their weather forecasting skills.

A dust storm is raging on Mars. The Martian atmosphere is so thin that while the wind can lift dust off the surface, it doesn't topple a spacecraft.

There is a risk that Opportunity will get too cold as it struggles to power its internal heaters, which protect its batteries from Mars' extreme cold.

Share

Advertisement

Related Posts

UK PM Theresa May backs Trudeau after Trump attacks
But Trump had already said he would not hesitate to shut countries out of the U.S. market if they retaliate against his tariffs. Kudlow said the president won't "let a Canadian prime minister push him around".

FG declares holidays to mark Id-el Fitr
Under the plans, government and military staff will receive around a full working week off to mark the holiday. These institutions will resume normal operations on Wednesday, June 20, sources said.

New Zealand’s Amelia Kerr hits 232 not out, smashes women’s ODI record
Kerr, whose highest ODI score before this series had been 30, signed for Kia Super League side Southern Vipers in May. Kerr's innings is third highest in ODI cricket, behind Rohit Sharma's 264 and Martin Guptill's 237.

Local leaders react to North America’s winning bid for 2026 World Cup
Where, exactly, the World Cup will be played, and whether all three host nations will automatically qualify for the tournament. A total of 23 finalists between the three countries have been selected as possible locations for World Cup games .

Breaking Down The AT&T-Time Warner Decision
The Justice Department had repeatedly suggested the judge consider forcing AT&T to divest some of Time Warner's cable channels. Trump, a frequent detractor of Time Warner's CNN and its coverage, denounced the deal when it was announced in October 2016 .

2 dead in Saudi Arabia from Houthi missile attack
He estimates that over a million people live in the greater Hodeidah area which is expected to be targeted in the offensive. The Saudi-led coalition faces widespread worldwide criticism for its air attacks in Yemen that have killed many civilians.

Trump's comments back U.S. report of razed N. Korea test site
USA secretary of state Mike Pompeo arrived at Osan Air Base south of Seoul from Singapore early on Wednesday evening. News of the summit itself had not yet been reported in the North as of late Tuesday night.

NCAA Changes Redshirt Rule
Currently, an athlete must ask a coach for permission to contact other schools when choosing to transfer. The old rule was meant to discourage other schools from tampering with student-athletes.

Garmin's new smartwatch features on-device storage for up to 500 songs
The Garmin Vivoactive 3 Music is really for those who will take advantage of its music storage and offline listening. Otherwise, it's virtually identical in design and abilities as the Vivoactive 3.

Microsoft Office 2019 for Mac previews improved inking features and more
There's now going to be a more "compact" view for the ribbon, with a collaboration view in the top right corner. Like the simplified ribbon , the new colors and icons will first appear in the web version of Word.

© 2015 ExpressNewsline. All Rights reserved.