The opacity of the Martian atmosphere is illustrated in these simulated images, starting with a brilliant sun in an essentially clear sky at far left to a dark sky in which the sun is virtually blocked out at the far right. Image: NASA
NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover, now 14 years past its original 90-day warranty, is no longer communicating with Earth thanks to a huge, fast-growing dust storm that has turned day into night at Endeavour Crater, preventing the solar-powered robot from recharging its batteries.
Project manager John Callas said the rover checked in 6 June, reporting energy levels of just 22 watt hours compared to 645 watt hours when the dust storm was first detected 30 May. An attempt to contact the spacecraft Tuesday was not successful.
He said engineers are optimistic Opportunity will survive the record storm and eventually phone home, but no one is resting easy given the rover’s age and the team’s emotional attachment to the long-lived robot.
“This team has a very strong bond with the rover, a very tight emotional connection with it,” Callas told reporters. “And we’re concerned about it, obviously. It’s like you have a loved one in a coma in the ...