An enormous dust storm is reported to have engulfed the Red Planet. As a result of such deadly tornado, the Opportunity Rover of NASA has also received a setback in respect of its investigation and analysing activities. The Mars Opportunity Rover is still believed to wait out amidst the still growing dust storm. This dust storm was first spotted by Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter of NASA as was revealed by the NASA officials.
The orbiter team gave an alert statement to the rover team the moment the dust storm was identified and was seen approaching towards the Opportunity rover; the rover team was asked to prepare a contingency plan. Within a few days, only the wind took its real shape and ballooned. As of June 8, the storm was covering 7 million square miles of Mars as revealed by NASA officials which is equivalent to an area larger than entire North America. NASA experts have said that full dust storms like the current one are not at all surprising, but they tend to occur very less, but once they happen, they tend to last for weeks or maybe even for months.
The area where the dust storm is currently positioned is referred to as the Perseverance valley. This is the place where the Mars Opportunity rover is now positioned within the enormous plains of the Red Planet of Meridiani Planum.
It is since 2004, that Opportunity has been hovering over the Red Planet. It gets its energy from the solar power. However due to this severe dust storm, the clouds have clogged the skies, and as a result, the functioning of the rover is severely affected. NASA compared the atmosphere to be an extremely smoggy day which has blotted out sunlight.
It was on June 6 that the power levels of the Opportunity rover dropped significantly. This forced the rover to put a stop to all its analysing activities. NASA official fear that if the storm persists then the rover will succumb to the cold weather of the Mars, a danger with which the rover had already faced difficulty in the past. It is this cold that was believed to have destroyed Spirit rover which was a twin of Opportunity rover in 2010 after which the robot got poorly stuck in the Martian sand.
However, experts feel that Opportunity rover is far hardier that Spirit rover was. Experts have viewed that the Opportunity rover has seen storms bigger than the current one and that it will be able to withstand it without any difficulty.