One of NASA’s exploring robots, Opportunity, is in danger of losing its power due to an enormously intense dust storm. As the dust covers the sky, the rover is unable to use the energy of the Sun to charge its internal battery.
Unexpected storm of dust
The scientists were not expecting for anything like this to happen. This big dust storm started to form on June 3rd, more or less in the same place where Opportunity was located at that time. Since then, the weather conditions on Mars have gotten worse and NASA predicts that the storm will keep on growing and it could last up to one month.
It happened in the past as well
The opportunity was introduced to the surface of Mars in 2004 and from that moment it proved its resistance to various conditions on many occasions. The scientists are hopeful that the rover will withstand the danger. This optimism comes from the fact that in 2007, when the Red Planet was hit by a less powerful dust storm, the robot managed to survive and remained unscathed. Also, thanks to this event, NASA’s engineers know how to cope with extreme weather conditions on Mars and what to do to keep the robot safe.
The ways to survive
The main challenge right now is to make sure that Opportunity is able to generate enough energy and heat to go through a long period of time with limited sunlight. In case the machine cannot charge its own battery using the solar panels, it will be vital to save the energy already stored by it. If necessary, this can be done by going into the “low power fault mode”. At the moment, the rover’s activity is limited to communicating with Earth, taking pictures of the Sun and most importantly to recharging its batteries.
As it was mentioned before, scientists from NASA are rather optimistic and they believe that Opportunity will be able to continue its mission on Mars. Most likely, we will have to wait for the storm to end to see what state the robot will be in.
Brad is a former Senior Fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University, is an award-winning travel, culture, and parenting writer. His writing has appeared in many of the Canada’s most respected and credible publications, including the Toronto Star, CBC News and on the cover of Smithsonian Magazine. A meticulous researcher who’s not afraid to be controversial, he is nationally known as a journalist who opens people’s eyes to the realities behind accepted practices in the care of children. Brad is a contributing journalist to Advocator.ca