Web Desk: Galaxy’s red planet Mars, is experiencing an intense dust storm since June this year. The storm is so strong that its surface looks hazy when seen from a telescope.
NASA’s longest-lived robot on planet is Opportunity rover scours, has been active on Mars since 2014. Though the vehicle was meant to last only three months, it is 15 years old now.
NASA’s Opportunity rover scours the land, constantly exploring and analysing its surroundings. However, it fell asleep on the job on June 10 due to a massive dust storm. The opportunity hasn’t been able to phone back home and it has been two months since the robot went into a state of coma.
Infamous for its dust storms, usually these rusty red swathes cover Mars once every few years. However, NASA believes this is “one of the most intense” global dust storm ever recorded, quoted Business Insider.
“I’m not sure what to say other than this is the worst storm Opportunity has ever seen, and we’re doing what we can, crossing our fingers and hoping for the best,” MER Principal Investigator Steve Squyres, of Cornell University, told The MER Update.
Why the opportunity is in danger?
1)The dust storm has thrown the planet into a perpetual state of darkness. The Martian weather, therefore, has blocked light for the poor opportunity which runs on solar panels. Due to this, it has lost the ability to store and recharge itself with electrical energy.
2) The climate of Mars has aroused curiosity among scientists for decades now. It can be very hot and biting cold at the same time. On Mars, winter temperatures can drop to minus 100 degrees Fahrenheit near the equator. Such cold weather can shrink pieces of metal in electronic circuits and break them.
3) Plutonium -238 nuclear buttons help keep Opportunity’s circuit warm but it is not only well-decayed but a short-term solution as well. Therefore, the robot still needs electricity to charge itself, run circuit warm heaters and to contact NASA mission back home.
4) Draining the batteries excessively is also another issue. The longer they are inactive, the more electrical storage capacity they lose. If Opportunity’s solar panels don’t clear itself of the dust then the batteries could dip in voltage.
If the dust storm doesn’t die down then it will become difficult for the robot to recover from a variety of ‘fault modes’ and Opportunity will join the likes of ‘Spirit’, an identical sister rover which stopped talking to NASA in March 2010 during a Martian winter.
Source: India Times