GIANT DUST STORM ON MARS MESSES UP AN OPPORTUNITY
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.
Opportunity, the rover related to Curiosity, above, is debilitated by a dust storm on Mars.