Mars dust storm hits Opportunity rover
June 14, 2018 -- A massive dust storm blanketing about a quarter of the surface of Mars has threatened NASA’s Opportunity rover, plunging the solar-powered vehicle into what NASA has described as a “dark, perpetual night.”
NASA engineers last received a transmission from the nearly 15-year-old Opportunity rover on Sunday morning.
Engineers are operating under the assumption that the charge in Opportunity’s batteries has dipped below 24 volts, and the rover has entered low power fault mode, a condition where all subsystems, except a mission clock, are turned off. The rover’s mission clock is programmed to wake the computer so it can check power levels.
“We’re concerned but hopeful that the storm will clear and the rover will begin to communicate with us,” John Callas, Opportunity project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said Wednesday.
First detected on May 30, the storm now blankets 35-million square kilometres of the Red Planet’s surface -- a quarter of the planet. NASA’s Curiosity rover has begun to see an increase in the atmospheric dust at its location in Gale Crater. Curiosity is not reliant on sunlight, being powered by an RTG (radioisotope thermoelectric generator).