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US News NASA's Opportunity Rover Has Been Knocked Out as a Giant Dust Storm Envelops Mars

07:20  14 june  2018
07:20  14 june  2018 Source:   time.com

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NASA ’ s Opportunity rover may not have to worry about running into traffic congestion on Mars , but vast dust storms are definitely an occupational hazard. Indeed, as of June 8, the storm had swollen to more than 7 million square miles, enveloping Opportunity in the process: the rover ’s location is

NASA announced on Friday that the Opportunity rover is currently being hit by the worst dust storm it’ s ever experienced in the 15 years since it landed on Mars . “A dark, perpetual night has settled over the rover ’ s location in Mars ’ Perseverance Valley,” NASA said in a statement.

a satellite in space: NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is shown in this handout photo released on July 29, 2014. © PL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State University/NASA/Reuters NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is shown in this handout photo released on July 29, 2014.

NASA’s seemingly unstoppable Mars rover Opportunity has been knocked out by a gigantic dust storm that is enveloping the red planet and blotting out the sun.

Officials said Wednesday they’re hopeful the rover will survive the storm, which already covers one-quarter of Mars and is expected to encircle the planet in another few days. It could be weeks or even months, though, until the sky clears enough for sunlight to reach the Martian surface and recharge Opportunity’s batteries through its solar panels.

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NASA announced on Friday that the Opportunity rover is currently being hit by the worst dust storm it’ s ever experienced in the 15 years since it landed on Mars . “A dark, perpetual night has settled over the rover ’ s location in Mars ’ Perseverance Valley,” NASA said in a statement.

For now, Mars’ oldest working rover is stuck in the middle of the raging storm, in round-the-clock darkness.

Related: NASA finds traces of ancient life on Mars (Provided by Rumble)

“By no means are we out of the woods here,” said John Callas, the Opportunity project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “This storm is threatening, and we don’t know how long it will last, and we don’t know what the environment will be like once it clears.”

Flight controllers tried late Tuesday night to contact Opportunity, but the rover did not respond. The storm has been growing since the end of May with unprecedented speed.

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NASA ’ s Opportunity rover may not have to worry about running into traffic congestion on Mars , but vast dust storms are definitely an occupational hazard. The science robot has been forced to go into emergency lock-down

NASA published a global map of Mars that shows the growing dust storm as of June 6. The blue dot shows an approximate location of the Opportunity rover , which is enveloped in the storm .

NASA launched the twin rovers Opportunity and Spirit in 2003 to study Martian rocks and soil. They landed in 2004. Spirit hasn’t worked for several years. Opportunity, however, has kept exploring well past its expected mission lifetime.

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

This combination of images made by NASA's Curiosity rover shows the rim of the Gale Crater on June 7 and 10, 2018 during a major dust storm. © NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/AP This combination of images made by NASA's Curiosity rover shows the rim of the Gale Crater on June 7 and 10, 2018 during a major dust storm.

Dust storms crop up every so often at Mars, sending dust tens of miles (kilometers) into the atmosphere and turning day into night. Spacecraft orbiting Mars are too high to be affected.

There’s no chance of Opportunity being buried or getting a wheel stuck in dust. Even in the worst of storms, only a layer of fine dust is left behind. Managers said the main concern is that dust could temporarily cover its optical instruments.

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NASA ’ s Opportunity rover has survived on Mars much longer than originally intended, but the planet is testing the little robot right now. A massive dust storm is sweeping across the landscape, blotting out the sun and leaving Opportunity stranded.

A massive dust storm larger than the entire North American continent is currently raging on Mars – and he has forced NASA to discontinue the scientific operations of its rover Opportunity . The storm – which covers an area of more than 7 million square miles

The rover’s batteries are likely so low that only a clock is still working, to wake the spacecraft for periodic power-level checks, according to officials. If the clock also goes offline, then the rover won’t know what time it is when it comes back on and could send back signals at any time.

This isn’t Opportunity’s first major brush with dust.

Related: The surface of Mars (Provided by Reuters)

The base of Mars Mount Sharp is pictured in this NASA handout photo taken by the Curiosity rover.: The base of Mars' Mount Sharp. The surface of Mars

In 2007, a massive dust storm kept Opportunity silent for a few days. It jumped back into action after awakening from its deep self-protecting slumber.

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. Astronauts living on Mars, for instance, wouldn’t want to get caught outside in a fierce dust storm, where winds can reach 70 mph (113 kilometers per hour) — almost hurricane force. The Martian atmosphere is so thin that while the wind can lift dust off the surface, it doesn’t topple a spacecraft.

Opportunity was in remarkably good health going into the storm, Callas said, with only an arthritic joint in its robotic arm.

“Keep in mind, we’re talking about a rover that’s been working at Mars, hanging in there, for 15 years and designed just for 90 days,” said Jim Watzin, director of NASA’s Mars exploration program. “It just doesn’t get any better than that.”

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