Missed Op­por­tu­nity

Mars rover knocked out

The Oklahoman - - NEWS - BY MAR­CIA DUNN AP Aerospace Writer

CAPE CANAVERAL, FLA. — NASA's 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 one-quar­ter 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 com­plete round-the-clock dark­ness.

"By no means are we out of the woods here," said John Callas, the Op­por­tu­nity project man­ager at NASA's Jet Propul­sion Lab­o­ra­tory in Pasadena, Cal­i­for­nia. "This storm is threat­en­ing, and we don't know how long it will last, and we don't know what the en­vi­ron­ment will be like once it clears."

All flight con­trollers can do is wait for the storm to pass and the sky to clear, of­fi­cials said, and hope Op­por­tu­nity calls home.

Flight con­trollers tried late Tues­day night to con­tact Op­por­tu­nity, but the rover did not re­spond. The storm has been growing since the end of May with un­prece­dented speed.

Op­por­tu­nity's bat­ter­ies are likely so low that only a clock is still work­ing, to wake the space­craft for pe­ri­odic power-level checks, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cials.

[NASA/JPL-CALTECH/MSSS VIA AP]

This com­pos­ite im­age made from ob­ser­va­tions by NASA’s Mars Re­con­nais­sance Or­biter space­craft shows a global map of Mars with a growing dust storm as of June 6. The storm was first de­tected on June 1. The blue dot at cen­ter in­di­cates the ap­prox­i­mate...

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