Opportunity rover threatened by giant storm on Mars

Rodiano Bonacci
Giugno 17, 2018

The storm has blanketed 14 million square miles of Mars, or about a quarter of the planet, which is now inhabited only by active and inactive robots.

Because dust storms can alter the Martian landscape, shaping the surface's rocks and sediment, understanding the storms' dynamics is essential to understanding the Red Planet's geological history.

The storm is already worse than a 2007 storm that Opportunity survived.

"Each observation of these large storms brings us closer to being able to model these events-and maybe, someday, being able to forecast them", Rich Zurek, chief scientist for the Mars Program Office at JPL in California, said. As stated by John Callas of the NASA JPL in Pasadena, California, "we are anxious, but we hope the storm will break and the rover will communicate with us again". Even if the unit gets into a small storm deposited on photoelectric Converter layer of dust can be enough to useful surface, able to convert solar energy into electrical energy, decreased significantly.

He said: "The situation on Mars really highlights the key question about Mars today, which is 'why do these massive widespread dust events occur in some years but not in other years?'"

"Due to an extreme amount of dust over Perseverance Valley, mission engineers believe it is unlikely the rover has enough sunlight to charge back up for at least the next several days", a Tuesday night NASA update explained. (Curiosity, which landed in 2012, is nuclear-powered and mostly unaffected by the dust.) The storm is being monitored by a fleet of orbiting spacecraft, particularly the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

He says it's important to consider the risks associated with dust storms, like the one that has silenced the Opportunity rover, when designing future missions to Mars. The NASA spokesman said that the storm is of unprecedented severity.

NASA has another rover on Mars as well as two flying probes that are equipped with specialized equipment that will send data back to Earth.

The storm was first detected by Nasa on 30 May, but grew at an extraordinary rate and quickly engulfed the rover in thick clouds of dust. It could take several more days before it is known whether the storm is encircling the entire planet.

If it does "go global", the storm will offer a brand new look at Martian weather. However, dust is not expected to completely bury the rover.

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, manages the MAVEN project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

The Thermal Emission Imaging System (THEMIS) was developed by Arizona State University, Tempe, in collaboration with Raytheon Santa Barbara Remote Sensing.

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