Could humans live on Mars? 'Absolutely,' NASA expert says

Rodiano Bonacci
Giugno 13, 2018

It now covers an area greater than North America, more than 7 million square miles (18 million square kilometers). The Martian dust tempest was initially witnessed from space by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter of NASA, as said by the officials. NASA believes these storms mainly occur during southern summers when solar heat warms up dust particles, lifting them higher in the atmosphere and creating wind, which in turns picks up more dust and creates what the agency describes as a feedback loop.

NASA announced on Friday that the Opportunity rover is now being hit by the worst dust storm it's ever experienced in the 15 years since it landed on Mars. Nighttime on Mars is extremely cold, but using Opportunity's heaters can drain the batteries. With dust clouds obscuring the sky, by Wednesday, June 6, Opportunity's battery levels had already "dropped significantly" NASA says. The storm lasted several days and blocked 99 percent of direct sunlight to the rover. And now with the dust storm blocking the sky, the sum of sunlight Opportunity can utilize to recharge has decreased.

"A dark, perpetual night has settled over the rover's location in Mars' Perseverance Valley", NASA said in a statement. The measured opacity level of the current storm is 10.8, almost double that of the 2007 event and temperatures in the region have dropped to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 29 degrees Celsius). Another dust storm in 2007 forced the rover to hunker down for two weeks in a survival mode of minimal operations. The fearless little rover is continuing to weather the storm; it sent a transmission back to Earth Sunday morning, which is a good sign. However, the tau rating of that storm was just 5.5.

In an update on Sunday, June 10th, NASA offered some reassuring news, saying that Opportunity had managed to send a brief message home earlier in the day despite the increasing peril.

The latest data transmission from Opportunity on Sunday morning showed the rover's temperature to be about -20°F (-29°C).

"Engineers will monitor the rover's power levels closely in the week to come". Without the heaters, the rover's batteries would likely fail and doom the mission.

"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.

Although the surface of Mars is inhospitable today, there is clear evidence that in the distant past, the Martian climate allowed liquid water-an essential ingredient for life as we know it - to pool at the surface.

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