Mars is currently experiencing a huge dust storm, which NASA says is even bigger than the entire North America continent. NASA’s Mars rover, Opportunity has ceased all its science operations and is reportedly waiting for the massive storm to pass away and clear skies to appear.
According to the officials of the space agency, this huge storm on the Red Planet was initially detected and reported by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter of NASA. On 6th June, the United States space agency brought to light a map of the Red Planet that was sent by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The map demonstrated the rising storm with a blue point depicting the location of the Opportunity rover. The officials of NASA said, “As soon as the orbiter team saw how close the storm was to Opportunity, they notified the rover’s team to begin preparing contingency plans.” Further, the officials stated, “In a matter of days, the storm had ballooned.”
According to the reports of Friday 8th June, the dust storm had covered near about seven million square miles (eighteen million square kilometers) of the Red Planet prevailing heavily across the Perseverance Valley, the place where the NASA Opportunity rover is situated.
The Opportunity rover uses solar energy to recharge its batteries. While the massive dust storm is blocking the sky, the sunlight reaching the NASA rover is gradually diminishing. The space agency said that this undesirable condition is similar to that of “an extremely smoggy day that blots out sunlight.”
NASA said that this is not the first time that the Opportunity is experiencing such a tuff condition. As stated by the officials of the U.S. space agency, “Full dust storms like this one are not surprising, but are infrequent.” The officials further said that such storms can arrive suddenly and last up to weeks or months. Working on Mars since the year 2004, the NASA Opportunity rover has faced a similar condition in the year 2007 when a dust storm even bigger than the present one had covered the planet and forced the Opportunity to cease its activities for around 2 weeks. The rover reportedly stopped contacts with its controllers in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA at Pasadena in California. However, Opportunity was strong enough to survive the harsh condition.