Mars Dust Storm Now 'Planet-Encircling,' Dimming Hopes For NASA Rover

Mars Dust Storm Now ‘Planet-Encircling,’ Dimming Hopes For NASA Rover

Opportunity, telephone dwelling!

NASA scientists are still holding out hope they are going to hear from the surprisingly long-lived Mars rover. It went into snooze mode earlier this month, because of a gargantuan dust storm on the Red Planet that is blocking beams from reaching the photo voltaic panels that recharge the rover’s batteries.

But like mild on Mars, hopes of listening to from Opportunity anytime quickly have dimmed.

NASA says the two-week-old storm doubled in measurement over the weekend, and is now formally a “planet encircling” or “global” occasion.

Opportunity’s science operations have been suspended, however it’s fortunately not the lone Mars rover.

Curiosity, which landed eight years after Opportunity in 2012, continues to climate the storm nicely, remaining largely unaffected by the mud.

Its batteries are nuclear powered, enabling it to proceed finding out the causes and results of such storms.

“Curiosity offers an unprecedented window to answer some questions,” NASA says. “One of the biggest: Why do some Martian dust storms last for months and grow massive, while others stay small and last only a week?”

Scientists do not but know the reply. They do know that mud storms are widespread, particularly when Mars is closest to the solar throughout spring and summer time.

Three orbiters — geared up with cameras — are also serving to scientists piece collectively solutions concerning the phenomenon.

“We have a historic number of spacecraft operating at the red planet,” says Jim Watzin, director of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program. “Each offers a unique look at how dust storms form and behave — knowledge that will be essential for future robotic and human missions.”

In the meantime, Martian chilly has additionally been a trigger for concern for Opportunity, now in its 15th 12 months on the planet. But NASA says, “a current evaluation of the rover’s long-term survivability in Mars’ excessive chilly suggests Opportunity’s electronics and batteries can keep heat sufficient to perform.”

Still, no one is aware of when the solar’s kiss will awaken Opportunity from its extended slumber.

While this storm is large, Opportunity made it by way of a good larger one in 2007. One distinction this time round, nevertheless, is the atmospheric opacity, or tau, which is far worse now.

As NPR’s Joe Palca has reported, Opportunity was designed to function for not less than 90 days, and the aged rover has been experiencing memory problems lately. So it has had a great run.

But nonetheless NASA’s not able to name it quits simply but.

NASA says such storms can final weeks, or months on the longest, and it’s anybody’s guess when the mud will dissipate.

“The project doesn’t expect to hear back from Opportunity until the skies begin to clear over the rover,” NASA says of floor controllers primarily based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “That doesn’t stop them from listening for the rover every day. “

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