Martian dust storm silences NASA's rover, Opportunity

2018-06-14 09:27

A massive dust storm raging across Mars has overcome NASA's aging Opportunity rover, putting the unmanned, solar-powered vehicle into sleep mode and raising concerns about its survival, the US space agency said on Wednesday.

The unusually severe dust storm has blocked out the Sun over one quarter of the Red Planet, blanketing an area spanning 35 million square kilometers (14 million square miles), NASA said.

Opportunity, located in a spot called Perseverance Valley, "has fallen asleep and is waiting out the storm," said John Callas, Opportunity project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

"We are concerned but we are hopeful that the storm will clear and the rover will be able to communicate with us."

The storm was first detected on May 30, and grew worse in recent days.

The rover has shut everything down except its master clock, and last communicated with Earth on June 10.

Callas declared a "spacecraft emergency" due to low power.

"In this point we are in a waiting mode. We are listening every day for possible signals from the rover," he said, likening the atmosphere among colleagues to having a family member in a coma.

Opportunity, along with its twin named Spirit, launched in 2003 and landed on Mars a year late to hunt for signs of past life.

Its mission was initially meant to last just 90 days.

The rover "has made a number of discoveries about the Red Planet including dramatic evidence that long ago at least one area of Mars stayed wet for an extended period and that conditions could have been suitable for sustaining microbial life," NASA said in a statement.

Its partner rover, Spirit, became stuck in soft soil on the Red Planet in 2009, and its mission was formally declared over in 2011.

Callas said he is hopeful Opportunity will not fully shut down because the approaching Martian summer means temperatures should not dip below the rover's minimal operating temperature, -55°C (-167 Fahrenheit).

The coldest NASA expects it to get is -36°C (-60 F).

"So we should be able to ride out the storm," he told reporters.

Read more on:    nasa

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
/News
Traffic Alerts
Traffic
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.