Information Sources: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/jpl/opportunity-hunkers-down-during-dust-storm
Original Title:Opportunity Hunkers Down During Dust Storm
Updated at 1:20 p.m. PDT on June 20, 2018
As of Tuesday morning, June 19, the Martian dust storm has grown in size and is now officially a “planet-encircling” (or “global”) dust event, according to Bruce Cantor of Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, who is deputy principal investigator of the Mars Color Imager camera on board NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
The storm has starkly increased dust at Gale Crater, where NASA’s Curiosity rover is studying the storm’s effects from the surface.
There still was no signal received from NASA’s Opportunity rover, despite efforts to listen in case it’s coming out of sleep during its fault window — the period of time when it attempts to communicate. A recent analysis of the rover’s long-term survivability in Mars’ extreme cold suggests Opportunity’s electronics and batteries can stay warm enough to function. Regardless, the project doesn’t expect to hear back from Opportunity until the skies begin to clear over the rover. That doesn’t stop them from listening for the rover every day.
The dust storm is comparable in scale to a similar storm observed by Viking I in 1977, but not as big as the 2007 storm that Opportunity previously weathered. But it’s also different than the massive storms observed by Mariner 9 (1971-1972) and Mars Global Surveyor (2001). Those storms totally obscured the planet’s surface, save for the peaks of Mars’ tallest volcanoes. The current dust storm is more diffuse and patchy; it’s anyone’s guess how it will further develop, but it shows no sign of clearing.
Updated at 6:30 p.m. PDT on June 12, 2018
NASA engineers attempted to contact the Opportunity rover today but did not hear back from the nearly 15-year old rover. The team is now operating under the assumption that the charge in Opportunity’s batteries has dipped below 24 volts and the rover has entered low power fault mode, a condition where all subsystems, except a mission clock, are turned off. The rover’s mission clock is programmed to wake the computer so it can check power levels.
Updated at 4:30 p.m. PDT on June 10, 2018
NASA engineers received a transmission from Opportunity on Sunday morning — a positive sign despite the worsening dust storm. Data from the transmission let engineers know the rover still has enough battery charge to communicate with ground controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Science operations remain suspended.
Original story posted on June 8, 2018
Updated 6:30 p.m. June 12, 2018 to correct and clarify the dates in paragraph 2 below
Science operations for NASA’s Opportunity rover have been temporarily suspended as it waits out a growing dust storm on Mars.