Above the Martian Valley of Perseverance, a sand storm of unprecedented strength is now rolling around, which can become a grave for the legendary Opportunity rover. The onset of the turbulence of the elements in NASA was noticed as early as June 1, by today the storm covered a space of 18 million square meters. km. And there are no forecasts as to how long it will last.
Apparatus Opportunity, like its twin Spirit, receives all its energy from a complex of solar batteries and constantly spends it on heating batteries, as on nights on Mars the temperature drops to -143 ° C. It is believed that Spirit in 2010 cooled to such a state that it was unable to reboot and get in touch. Opportunity while luckier – this rover has already worked almost 15 years instead of the planned 90 days. And he was also in the middle of a storm.
In 2007, Opportunity safely survived the storm, at which the opacity of the atmosphere of Mars reached 5.5 tau. Now the situation is much worse, the opacity reached 10.8 tau, and in NASA they gave the command to the rover to curtail all work, to disconnect most of the modules and redirect the remaining energy for heating and telemetry maintenance. As of Sunday, June 10, Opportunity was still functioning, but what will happen next?
Martian storms – an amazing phenomenon that you want not to be afraid, but to study. For example, with the arrival of Mariner 9 in 1971, the storm closed the entire planet and lasted two months! Partly, therefore, the new Mars rover Curiosity has a nuclear power source to exclude the repetition of the fate of Spirit. But here is an interesting fact – in the latest data from Opportunity the temperature of the case was much higher than the calculated temperature, only -29 ° C. The storm somehow provides thermal insulation of the planet’s surface, and if the slowly cooling rover manages to survive until its end, the scientists will receive new invaluable data on the Martian climate.