NASA‘s little Mars rover is battling a fierce dust storm the size of North America which is raging over the floor of the Red Planet.
The Opportunity rover was pressured to halt operations final week because the storm swept over Perserverance Valley, bringing sufficient dust to blot out the solar.
Engineers at NASA have put the robotic into minimal operations mode and are ready to see if it’s going to nonetheless operate as soon as the dust has settled.
The exploration rover depends on mild to run its photo voltaic panels, which cost its inside battery and generate energy for its heaters.
While the rover despatched a transmission all the way down to Earth on Sunday, the storm has intensified in latest days bringing “a dark, perpetual night over the rover’s location”, NASA stated in a press release.
Scientists are involved over the robotic’s energy ranges.
There is a threat that Opportunity will get too chilly because it struggles to energy its inside heaters, which defend its batteries from Mars’ excessive chilly.
Like the human physique, the exploration rover can not operate properly below excessively scorching or chilly temperatures.
In order to outlive, the rover should not exceed temperatures of -40C to +40C.
The storm was first detected on Saturday, June 1 and promptly grew to span greater than seven million sq. miles – an space higher than North America.
Scientists stated the swirling dust has created an excessive smog that blots out daylight.
NASA stated Opportunity’s energy ranges had dropped “significantly” by Wednesday, June 6, requiring the rover to shift to minimal operations.
But information from the transmission on Sunday informed engineers that the rover nonetheless has sufficient battery cost to communication with floor controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
It additionally confirmed the rover’s temperature to be round -29C.
NASA stated it’s going to proceed to watch the rover’s energy ranges carefully within the week to return.
However, it stated that the rover has already proved hardier than anticipated by lasting almost 15 years – regardless of being designed for a 90-day mission.
This isn’t the primary time Opportunity has hunkered down in dangerous climate.
In 2007, a a lot bigger storm coated the planet main to 2 weeks of minimal operations, together with a number of days with no contact from the rover to avoid wasting energy.