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by ibgames

EARTHDATE: June 17, 2018

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by Hazed

Opportunity has been trundling across the surface of Mars for 15 years, which is pretty incredible because its original mission was only slated to last 90 days. But now its survival is in doubt because of a massive dust storm.

The storm was spotted on 1 June by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It now covers over 18 million square kilometres, and it’s reached Opportunity’s location in the Perseverance Valley.

The storm is a problem because the rover is solar powered. If it doesn’t get enough sunlight, it won’t be able to keep its batteries charged, and that means it can’t run its heaters. If its temperature drops below minus 40 degrees C, it’s electronics will stop working and it’ll be curtains for the plucky little rover.

Earlier in the week, Opportunity reported that the temperature is down to around minus 29 C. But the good news is that the fact it is still communicating with Earth means it’s not running out of power yet. Ironically, the storm may also offer some protection from the cold because it will absorb heat.

The Opportunity mission team have asked NASA’s Deep Space Network for extra coverage so they have more chance to keep in touch with the rover. Meanwhile all they can do is wait for the storm to subside, and hope the rover survives.

Meanwhile, the Curiosity rover is over 2,000km away from Opportunity but still experience this massive storm. But it is powered by a radioisotope thermoelectric generator so isn’t at the same risk as Opportunity. It has snapped a picture of the dust storm which you can see at the second link.

Source: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/06/11/opportunity_mars_dust_storm/

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