Huge Dust Storm on Mars Sidelines NASA's Opportunity Rover

Space.com | 6/10/2018 | Google+
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A massive dust storm on Mars has sidelined NASA's Opportunity rover, stalling the robot's science wr as it waits out a storm that appears to be still growing.

The Martian dust storm was first spotted from space by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, NASA officials said.

Friday - June - Storm - Miles - Mars

As of Friday (June 8), the storm covers more than 7 million square miles of Mars (18 million square kilometers), according to NASA. That's an area larger than all of North America on Earth.

"Full dust storms like this one are not surprising, but are infrequent," NASA officials said in the statement. "They can crop up suddenly but last weeks, even months."

Area - Dust - Storm - Perseverance - Valley

The area blanketed by the dust storm includes Perseverance Valley, Opportunity's current home on the vast Martian plains of Meridium Planum.

Opportunity has been exploring Mars since 2004, but it runs on solar power. With the dust storm clogging up the sky, the amount of sunlight the rover can use to recharge has dropped. NASA compared the conditions to "an extremely smoggy day that blots out sunlight."

Wednesday - June - Opportunity - Power - Levels

By Wednesday (June 6), Opportunity's power levels saw a major drop, forcing the rover to stop all science to conserve power. If the storm lasts too long, the main concern will be the Martian cold, a danger Opportunity has faced in the past, NASA officials said.

"There is a risk to the rover if the storm persists for too long and Opportunity gets too cold while...
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