On Mars a dust storm raging. The life of one of the Rovers NASA under threat


The American space Agency NASA has suspended all scientific work of a small Mars Rover “opportunity”, as over the Valley of perseverance (Perseverance Valley), a place where the unit is located, is currently raging a huge dust storm. The first anomalies in the weather, NASA has observed on 1 June. Over the weekend, the storm significantly intensified. A huge dust layer that hovered over the vast area of the Martian surface, plunging into the darkness and “opportunity”.

For Rover it was a very big problem. In contrast to the more modern “Curiosity”, the ability to work in and from the RTGs (radioisotope thermoelectric generator), all the power to operate “Opportunity” generate solar panels that store energy in the batteries of the device. So anything that reduces access to sunlight, can create a serious threat to the Rover.

According to scientists, as of Friday, June 8, the storm covered more than 18 million square kilometers of the planet — more than all of North America.

As noted in NASA, giant dust storms like this on Mars, though rare, but common. Such storms can occur suddenly and last for weeks or even months. “Opportunity” also previously had to deal with these weather phenomena. For example, in 2007 a giant dust storm had covered even a larger area of the surface of the planet, forcing scientists to two weeks to transfer the Rover at the minimum mode of operation. The control center even stopped for a few days communication with the apparatus, in order to save its reserves of energy.

However, the current storm, they say at NASA, was even more powerful. As of June 10, the dust storm has nearly doubled the opacity of the atmosphere in comparison with the phenomenon of 2007. It is described by the factor Tau. In 2007 this ratio reached a maximum value of 5.5 Tau; the current storm shows 10,8 Tau.

NASA noticed a significant reduction in the power level of the Rover on June 6. After that, the Rover had been decided in the so-called crisis mode. Since all the electronics opportunity relies on solar energy, the Rover was not able to provide the desired level of heating for their batteries.

AAA batteries — the process is quite energy intensive, so the Rover must have more reserves of energy to work properly. In NASA believe that the main reason for the failure of the Mars Rover “Spirit” has been the impossibility of collecting a sufficient level of solar energy for nutritional support are critical to the survival of the machine heating system of its batteries.

Data coming from sensors of opportunity, saying that the current temperature “behind a Board” of the Rover is about -29 degrees Celsius. The minimum possible for the operation of the Rover and the temperature is around -40 degrees Celsius. Scientists from NASA have noted that the dust storm still creates for a Rover with some benefit. The dust blocks the sun’s rays, but at the same time and absorbs their heat, which in General increases the temperature of the environment around the Rover.

There is another sign, promising to “opportunity” a successful exit from the crisis. NASA reported that on 10 June he received a radio message from the Rover that might talk about the fact that the device still has a sufficient amount of energy for communication.

How long can a dust storm — maybe weeks, maybe months at NASA don’t know, but will continue monitoring.

Even if the “opportunity” will not survive this storm, this Rover has managed to make a significant contribution to the exploration of Mars, surpassed all expectations. Initially designed to work within 90 days, the Rover conducted scientific experiments of the red planet for 14 years.

On Mars a dust storm raging. The life of one of the Rovers NASA under threat
Nikolai Khizhnyak