NASA is watching a dust storm on Mars the size of North America and Russia combined

This series of images from NASA’s Opportunity rover on Mars shows the effects of a huge dust storm blotting out the sun on the Red Planet in June 2018. On the left is the sun is blinding bright but darken as the dust storm intensifies. On the right side, the sun is just a pinprick, with the dust storm in full swing. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/TAMU

NASA’s Opportunity rover on Mars not return a call from Earth on Tuesday (June 12) while he is a huge dust storm that scientists have called “one of the most intense ever seen.”

“The Martian dust storm that blots out the sun above the Possibility has continued to intensify,” NASA officials wrote in a mission update Tuesday. “The storm, which was first detected on 30 May, now blankets 14 million square miles (35 million square kilometers) of Mars surface — a quarter of the planet.” That means that the Chance of solar panels is not enough sunlight to phone home from her Perseverance Valley location on Mars.

The chance on the failure to respond to a signal from the mission operations center at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory is a sign of the rover is in a “low power fault mode”, where all rover systems are turned off, except for a mission clock. That clock is programmed to wake up the rover regularly and check the power levels to see if he can call home. [Biggest Mars Discoveries by Opportunity & Spirit]

“As the rover, the computer determines that the battery is not sufficiently charged, it will again take yourself back to fall asleep,” NASA officials said. “As a result of extreme quantity of the substance about Perseverance Valley, mission engineers believe it is unlikely that the rover has enough sunlight to charge back up for at least the next few days.”

The dust storm was first spotted on May 30 by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and it has been growing ever since. NASA has continued to track the storm from orbit and the surface. In addition to the Opportunity, the Mars rover Curiosity is the monitoring of the dust content of the storm.

Scientists think that the energy level in the Occasion the battery is below 24 volts. If the rover loses power for an extended period of time, there is a chance that it won’t be able to power the heaters needed for the electronics of life. The extreme cold of Mars is thought to be what killed Chance’s twin, the Spirit rover after it got stuck in Mars sand in 2010.

Chance has seen its share of dust storms on Mars.

In 2007, a planetwide dust storm blotted out the sun for two weeks. Chance went silent during that storm, but survived. The almost 15-year-old rover launched in 2003 and has been exploring Mars since it landed in January 2004. Opportunity has lasted more than 50 times longer than the original 90-day mission plan, NASA officials have said.

NASA will hold a teleconference today at 1:30 pm EDT (1730 GMT) to discuss the Mars-dust storm, affect the Opportunity and how scientists are tracking it with a spacecraft in orbit. You can watch the news briefing live here on with thanks to NASA TV.

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