Mars Opportunity Rover Out of Commission Due to Dust Storm

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He says it's important to consider the risks associated with dust storms, like the one that has silenced the Opportunity rover, when designing future missions to Mars.

The officials, however, expressed optimism that the Opportunity rover, which was built to operate for three months but has thrived on Mars since January 2004, will be able to survive and continue its scientific mission.

The 15-year-old vehicle, known as Opportunity, has gone into an emergency mode because there is not enough sunlight reaching its solar panels to power onboard systems. The power generation in sleep mode is so meager that it may ultimately lose the ability to charge its inner clock. The storm has caused NASA's Opportunity rover to suspend science operations, but also offers a window for four other spacecraft to learn from the swirling dust. "When the skies clear and the rover begins to power up, it should begin to communicate with us", Callas said, expressing confidence that Opportunity will not be buried in dust.

Opportunity landed on Mars on 24th January 2005, nearly five n half months after its launching on 7th July 2003."Oppy" is the name taken by its fans.

The dust storm has completely blanketed out all visible detail on the planet and surface conditions are equally dire. But if the storm grows stronger in the days to come, it may bring the journey of this little rover to an end.

The current dust storm, which is still growing, now covers 14 million square miles of the Martian surface, almost 25 percent of the planet.

The rover "has made a number of discoveries about the Red Planet including dramatic evidence that long ago at least one area of Mars stayed wet for an extended period and that conditions could have been suitable for sustaining microbial life", Nasa said in a statement. As Calla said, "It's like having a loved one in a coma in the hospital".

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It was trying to establish whether the valley had been sculpted by water or wind erosion, or both.

Mission controllers at the U.S. space agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, lost contact with the rover on Tuesday evening, according to The Guardian.

Its mission was initially meant to last just 90 days.

This time, the rover's energy level is believed to be much lower.

Luckily, it's approaching summer on Mars now, so it shouldn't hit the lowest temperatures Opportunity was created to handle, which is minus 131 degrees Fahrenheit.

This set of images from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows a fierce dust storm is kicking up on Mars, with rovers on the surface indicated as icons.