GI­ANT DUST STORM ON MARS MESSES UP AN OP­POR­TU­NITY

The Denver Post - - NEWS -

FLA.» NASA’s CAPE CANAVERAL, seem­ingly un­stop­pable Mars rover Op­por­tu­nity has been knocked out by a gi­gan­tic dust storm that is en­velop­ing the red planet and blot­ting out the sun.

Of­fi­cials said Wed­nes­day they’re hope­ful the rover will sur­vive the storm, which al­ready covers onequar­ter of Mars and is ex­pected to en­cir­cle the planet in an­other few days. It could be weeks or even months, though, un­til the sky clears enough for sun­light to reach the Mar­tian sur­face and recharge Op­por­tu­nity’s bat­ter­ies through its so­lar pan­els.

For now, Mars’ old­est work­ing rover is stuck in the mid­dle of the rag­ing storm, in round-the-clock dark­ness.

Flight con­trollers tried late Tues­day night to con­tact Op­por­tu­nity, but the rover did not re­spond.

NASA launched the twin rovers Op­por­tu­nity and Spirit in 2003 to study Mar­tian rocks and soil. They landed in 2004. Spirit hasn’t worked for sev­eral years. Op­por­tu­nity, how­ever, has kept ex­plor­ing well past its ex­pected mis­sion life­time.

Sci­en­tists aren’t nearly as con­cerned about the newer, nu­cle­ar­pow­ered Cu­rios­ity rover on the other side of Mars, which is al­ready see­ing dark­en­ing skies.

NASA

Op­por­tu­nity, the rover re­lated to Cu­rios­ity, above, is de­bil­i­tated by a dust storm on Mars.

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