This included Perseverance Valley or the site where Opportunity had been conducting science operations. If the dust storm lasts long, it could impair the rover thus killing it. The map demonstrated the rising storm with a blue point depicting the location of the Opportunity rover. The 2007 storm produced a tau value of 5.5, while the current storm has already produced a tau of 10.8.
A statement put out by the space agency has detailed the circumstances that Opportunity is facing now.
This global map of Mars shows the dust storm sweeping across the landscape. The swirling dust absorbs heat, raising the temperature at the surface.
Presently, engineers will monitor Opportunity's power levels closely in the week to come. "The rover needs to balance low levels of charge in its battery with sub-freezing temperatures". Without the heaters, the rover's batteries would likely fail and doom the mission.
In what could be a very important announcement in our search for life on other planets, NASA has revealed that they have discovered what could be the "building blocks" of ancient life on the Red Planet.
These dust storms "are not surprising, but are infrequent" and can last up to "weeks, even months" according to NASA. Further, the officials stated, "In a matter of days, the storm had ballooned".
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Scientists gauge the strength of a dust storm using the unit tau, a measurement of the atmosphere's opacity. Air conditions are similar to "an extremely smoggy day", as a result, NASA says.
By Wednesday (June 6), Opportunity's power levels saw a major drop, forcing the rover to stop all science to conserve power. Another dust storm in 2007 forced the rover to hunker down for two weeks in a survival mode of minimal operations. The risks are Opportunity losing all its power before the storm subsides, or not pushing enough energy to the heaters to protect the rover from the cold. It's not unlike running a vehicle in the winter so that the cold doesn't sap its battery charge.
Opportunity's original mission was expected to last just 90 days, but the rover is still operational almost 15 years later. Despite this, both rovers have vastly exceeded expectations: they were only created to last 90 days each. It has operated more than 50 times longer than NASA originally planned.
While Green is confident that humankind will get to Mars within a couple of decades - NASA's target is 2040 - he explains that there are now significant obstacles to reaching this goal.