JUN 13, 2018 5:18 PM PDT

NASA's Opportunity Rover Falls Silent Amid Worsening Martian Dust Storm

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

If you weren’t already aware, NASA’s solar-powered Opportunity rover is in a bit of a pickle right now. A continent-sized dust storm enveloped the rover and is blocking critical sunlight from reaching its solar panels, forcing it into a low-power state until the storm passes over.

NASA planned to keep in touch with Opportunity throughout the course of the dust storm to ensure its well-being, but the rover didn’t respond to contact attempts on Tuesday, triggering worry among space agency staff.

The dust surrounding Opportunity has intensified enough to block critical sunlight.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/TAMU

"At this point, we’re in a waiting mode. We’re listening every day for possible signals from the rover and are prepared to respond to that," explained Opportunity project manager John Callas at a NASA press conference on Wednesday.

"We’re concerned, but we’re hopeful that the storm will clear and the rover will begin to communicate with us."

Related: Curiosity rover's wheels are beginning to break

The two biggest worries at the moment are: 1) that the dust storm will persist beyond Opportunity’s limited battery capacity, and 2) that the temperature could dip low enough to damage the rover’s vital onboard equipment.

NASA remains optimistic about the latter situation, suggesting that a combination of factors such as the Martian Summer and the dust’s insulating effects will keep the environment warm enough to prevent damage.

As of now, the space agency continues to leverage all available resources for monitoring the dust storm, including the nuclear-powered Curiosity rover and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. But all the monitoring capabilities in the world won’t relieve the stress of the current situation.

“This team has a very strong bond with the rover, and we have a tight emotional connection with it,” Callas added.

“By no means are we out of the woods here. This storm is threatening, and we don’t know how long it will last and what the environment will be like when it clears. We’re all concerned.”

Related: Curiosity rover spies on Martian dust devils

There’s no telling if or when Opportunity will begin communicating with engineers again, but NASA won’t stop trying to get in touch with it. It should be interesting to see what becomes of the situation.

Source: NASA

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
NOV 06, 2020
Space & Astronomy
300 Million Planets in the Milky Way May Be Habitable
NOV 06, 2020
300 Million Planets in the Milky Way May Be Habitable
Researchers have found that there could be at least 300 million habitable worlds in the Milky Way galaxy. This could mea ...
JAN 23, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Icelandic sediment holds clues for early Martian climate
JAN 23, 2021
Icelandic sediment holds clues for early Martian climate
New research conducted by scientists from Rice University aims to investigate places on Mars that harbor similar geologi ...
APR 13, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
Think again: does the presence of oxygen really mean life on other planets?
APR 13, 2021
Think again: does the presence of oxygen really mean life on other planets?
Does the presence of oxygen mean the existence of life? That’s a question that scientists have been debating over ...
MAY 23, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Why Do Some Stars Vanish from Space?
MAY 23, 2021
Why Do Some Stars Vanish from Space?
Current theories suggest that stars undergo changes on timescales of millions or billions of years, and that their end i ...
MAY 29, 2021
Space & Astronomy
Climate Models Overestimate Role of Greenhouse Gases in Global Warming, Says New Study
MAY 29, 2021
Climate Models Overestimate Role of Greenhouse Gases in Global Warming, Says New Study
Researchers have that there was four times more soot in the pre-industrial Southern Hemisphere's atmosphere than pre ...
MAY 30, 2021
Space & Astronomy
New Discovery Casts Origin of Milky Way into Doubt
MAY 30, 2021
New Discovery Casts Origin of Milky Way into Doubt
A detailed cross-section of another galaxy, known as YGC 10738, has cast previous ideas of how the Milky Way was formed ...
Loading Comments...