The impossible weather on Mars determined NASA to announce the suspension of the Opportunity rover operations. At the moment scientists are waiting for the storm to pass. A global map of Mars was also released and we were able to see the location of the rover.
Powerful dust storm
The storm started building up since June 1, and this was observed by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The Opportunity team was advised to prepare for the storm. The dust storm managed to cover 18 million square kilometres and it is currently sweeping across Perseverance Valley, which is the place where the rover is located.
Opportunity uses solar panels to recharge its battery, but the dust prevents it from doing that. The rover needs power for its heaters, as there is are extremely low temperatures on Mars. According to NASA, “There is a risk to the rover if the storm persists for too long and Opportunity gets too cold while waiting for the skies to clear.”
This is not the first storm Opportunity has to deal with. Back in 2007, the rover had to suspend its activity for two weeks because of a larger storm. We should remind you that Opportunity landed back in 2004, and it was supposed to stay there for only 90 days.
The Curiosity rover is also on Mars, but on the other side of the planet, in a safe zone. Nonetheless, the Curiosity team keeps an eye on the storm. “We expect that even if the storm dissipates before becoming a global dust storm, that the amount of dust in Gale will increase over the next several days,” declared member Scott Guzewich, a member of the Curisoty team. The rover is currently located in the Gale Crater.