UPDATE: Unprecedented Mars Dust Storm Might Have Killed the Opportunity Rover

For nearly two weeks now, NASA’s Opportunity Rover has been caught in the middle of one of the most intense dust storms humanity was ever able to observe on Mars.
Nearly a third of Mars' surface engulfed in huge dust storm 1 photo
Photo: NASA
When NASA last updated us on the Martian dust storm, it said it covered an area of more than 7 million square miles (18 million square kilometers) or roughly the size of the North American continent.

In the past few days, it grew so large that it could engulf both North America and Russia combined: 15.8 million square miles (41 million square kilometers).

With all that dust in the atmosphere, there’s little sunlight left for the solar-powered Opportunity to be able to function properly. Last time NASA said it heard from the rover was at the end of last week.

The rover is severely affected by the lack of sunlight, and the power levels have dropped, requiring the machine to enter minimal operations mode.

On Wednesday, NASA said it would hold a press conference later in the day to update the world on both the progress of the dust storm and the status of the rover.

Usually, NASA doesn’t hold a press conference on such subjects unless there’s a major discovery made or something bad happens. Otherwise, it limits itself at publishing press statements. This is why today’s press conference might mean really bad news for the Rover.

“NASA will host a media teleconference at 10:30 a.m. PDT (1:30 p.m. EDT) Wednesday, June 13, to discuss a massive Martian dust storm affecting operations of the agency's Opportunity rover and what scientists can learn from the various missions studying this unprecedented event,” NASA said in a statement.

Opportunity is perhaps the most iconic and extraordinary machines ever built by NASA. It arrived on Mars in 2004, and it was supposed to be operational for only 90 days. It celebrated 14 years on the job this January.

Opportunity’s brother rover, the Spirit, managed to exceed it’s live expectation as well, but NASA lost contact with it in 2011.

UPDATE: NASA said in an update that it attempted to contact the Opportunity rover but failed.

"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."

Despite all this, NASA still hopes the rover would be capable of charging back up in a few days' time, provided enough sunlight would be able to get to it.
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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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