In NASA announced a giant sandstorm on Mars

Huge Dust Storm on Mars Sidelines NASA's Opportunity Rover

Though the storm didn't have any direct effect on the rover, the dust swirling around did create a slight problem for the machine. Though Opportunity was created to only operate for 90 days, it has continued to explore the planet for over 15 years.

The Article from A massive dust storm on Mars has recently hit NASA's Opportunity Rover. "In a matter of days, the storm had ballooned", explained NASA's spokespersons in an official statement.

As has been seen throughout Opportunity's lifetime, dust routinely collects on the surface of its solar panels and is, somewhat surprisingly, routinely cleaned by Mars' wind and dust devil events, thus allowing greater power generation on the rover than would otherwise be possible if total accumulation built up over time without these cleaning events. 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.

Indeed, as of June 8, the storm had swollen to more than 7 million square miles, enveloping Opportunity in the process: the rover's location is marked with a blue dot in the center of the image above. The space agency said that this undesirable condition is similar to that of "an extremely smoggy day that blots out sunlight".

By Wednesday (June 6), Opportunity's power levels saw a major drop, forcing the rover to stop all science to conserve power. Faced with dwindling power reserves and no recharge in sight, the JPL team running the rover opted to put it into minimal operations mode.

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This isn't Opportunity's first time hunkering down in bad weather: in 2007, a much larger storm covered the planet.

"It's not unlike running a vehicle in the winter so that the cold doesn't sap its battery charge", NASA writes in a release.

"Ultimately, the storm subsided and Opportunity prevailed", NASA said. The Martian cold is believed to have resulted in the loss of Spirit, Opportunity's twin in the Mars Exploration Rover mission, back in 2010. In the days to come, the dust storm may expand further, having already blanketed the Perseverance Valley, which is where NASA's Opportunity rover is stationed. However, they can develop seemingly overnight and last weeks, even months.

"This is a significant breakthrough because it means there are organic materials preserved in some of the harshest environments on Mars", said lead author of one of two studies in Science, Jennifer Eigenbrode, an astrobiologist at NASA Goddard Spaceflight Centre. The updrafts of dust can trigger more winds, triggering a feedback loop that fuels the birth of a dust storm.

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