NASA’s solar-powered Mars rover Opportunity is facing an unprecedented sandstorm on the red planet. The US space agency is afraid it could threaten the life span of the rover.
Opportunity project manager, John Callas expressed concern on that. ‘We are concerned but we are hopeful that the storm will clear and the rover will be able to communicate with us,’ he said.
His concern is quite understandable. The rover has been running low in power since the storm – which started on May 30 at the same point where the rover is parked – has removed its main source of energy, sunlight. It is enveloped in a dark, perpetual night-like situation. That forced Mars rover Opportunity to automatically enter a power-saving mode.
Thus, most of its functions are suspended.
An icy Mars is now slowly taking away the life giving warmth of Opportunity. As long as the rover stays warm enough, and our predictions are that it will, we can go any number of days,’ Callas said.
However, the only positive point is that summer on Mars is approaching. Temperatures are expected to rise soon.
The storm has already affected a quarter of the surface of Mars, equivalent to the size of the entire American continent, and could surround the planet in a few days, as happened in 2001 and 2007.
Scientists do not know when the storm will end and the rover will be able to generate new solar power. Opportunity landed on Mars in 2004 and has made many discoveries about the past of this red planet.