Published: Sun, June 17, 2018
Research | By Jody Lindsey

Mars Dust Storm 'Ideal' For Scientific Study

Mars Dust Storm 'Ideal' For Scientific Study

Mission engineers are doubtful that the rover has enough sunlight to charge back up for at least the next several days.

Scott Maxwell, a former Mars rover driver who led the team driving Opportunity and its twin Spirit for the first several years, says via email to Fortune, "I refuse to believe that anything can kill Opportunity-I half think she'll still be roving Mars when humans are forgotten!" As Calla said, "It's like having a loved one in a coma in the hospital".

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?'" "We have a historic number of spacecraft operating at the Red Planet". But with the vast dust storm covering about a quarter of the planet for the past two weeks, the rover has run out of power. The CubeSats, named Mars Cube One and Two, won't collect science data or land, but they're tests for future small-scale deployments. Additionally, NASA's Curiosity rover has begun to see an increase in dust at its location in Gale Crater. 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". Despite the Opportunity being out of action, NASA is excited by the scientific opportunities that the storm presents.

Opportunity has spent the last 14 years on Mars, lasting much longer than the 90-day mission planned, covering 28 miles in the rocky red dust.

June 6, NASA has registered a marked decline in energy level of the Rover and moved it to save work.

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It's not like a desert storm shifting large sand dunes, more like talcum powder lofted into atmosphere and distributed around the globe, said Jim Watzin, director of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters. The thin atmosphere makes these events different from storms on Earth; even the most powerful Martian winds couldn't topple a rover. But the storm is still growing and should encircle the planet in a matter of days.

"So we should be able to ride out the storm".

A record dust storm has been swirling on Mars for almost two weeks.

And there isn't any danger of the rover being buried by dust, although clearing it off once the storm subsides may be another challenge.

JPL, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages the Mars Exploration Rover mission; the Mars Science Laboratory/Curiosity rover; the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Project; and the 2001 Mars Odyssey orbiter for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. "It's a remarkably resilient little rover".

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