Curiosity wasn’t enough to cover the entire surface of the Red Planet, so NASA decided to send a second machine, the Opportunity Rover, to study Mars. However, the space agency was forced to delay the observations, as the little rover is currently facing some issues. Opportunity is struggling with a strong dust storm near the Perseverance Valley on Mars.
The Opportunity Rover is facing a tough moment
While facing all kinds of problems, Curiosity has at least one thing it shouldn’t worry about, and that is power. Unfortunately, the Opportunity Rover is less lucky, as it needs solar panels to function. This shouldn’t be a problem unless a dust storm comes along.
On June 1st, NASA spotted the emergence of the storm and then, during the weekend, it saw it getting worse. By June 8th, the storm spread over a huge area of about 7 million square miles, which is a lot more than the surface of North America. If the dust storm doesn’t calm down, the sunrays won’t reach the Opportunity Rover, preventing it from functioning.
The dust storm is the toughest the rover has ever experienced
The tiny machine is quite used to facing problems, as this isn’t the first issue it experienced. In 2007, for instance, it became non-functional for 12 days, while NASA had to interrupt communication with it to help it save power. However, this storm is a lot more serious than what Opportunity has ever experienced.
Researchers measure the level of darkness in the atmosphere in tau. During the 2007 incident, the Martian atmosphere reached 5.5 tau. Now, the current dust storm has brought the atmosphere to a darkness of 10.8 tau. This doesn’t only block the sunlight, but also makes the planet really cold. Since the Opportunity Rover relies entirely on solar power, it has been in crisis mode since June 6th.
The situation is quite critical for the survival of the Opportunity Rover. While the lack of sun can be a serious blow, the dust might really help it by raising the general temperature at the surface.
Image source: USGS Astrogeology