NASA’s Rover Opportunity has been on Mars for over a decade, but a sandstorm might end its mission. Opportunity project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, John Callas stated in an interview that the rover is now “asleep and is waiting out the storm. It’s completely black on Mars.”
The storm covers almost a quarter of the Red Planet’s surface, and the dust is so thick that light cannot reach the solar panels that the rover uses for power.
Engineers at NASA heard from Opportunity three days ago, when it last sent a message back to Earth. That day, the rover was in Perseverance Valley.
Summer Could Save Mars Rover Opportunity
Opportunity must resist low temperatures that can reach a low of minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit. His sister rover Spirit 2010 got stuck in the sand, and its computer froze. To keep ‘warm,’ the rover moves on the surface of the Red Planet, but with the storm passing, it must hold its ground.
Thankfully, Mars enters the summer season, meaning that the rover might live the storm, as it not only brings dust, but it also brings warmer temperatures. Callas concluded that “It should be able to ride out this storm.”
Opportunity’s mission was meant to last only 90 days since he landed on Mars back on 25 January 2004. However, it lasted almost 15 years! According to Callas, Opportunity will be in “low power mode,” until it can get more energy from the Sun. It will then reboot on its own and try to reconnect with the ones that drive it on Earth.
Callas said that what will happen after the storm is unpredictable:
“By no means are we out of the woods here. This storm is threatening. We have no idea how long it will last, and we don’t know what the environment will be like once it clears.”
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.