Dust storm ravaging Mars passing, NASA's Opportunity Rover missing..

Mars Opportunity Rover
Image credit: NASA

Let's face it, Mars is a bit of a dust bowl.
But even we were a bit gobsmacked when a dossier passed over the desk at HQ about a dust storm on Mars read "....engulfs the entire planet".

Considering Mars is half the size of Earth, it puts the size of the murky old wind war into perspective. I mean, picture half the Earth covered in dust like Nanna's place. Crazy.

Anyway, there are two major assets on Mars that are beloved by all and that's the Rovers. With dust storms on big red only lasting a few weeks max, we thought "she'll be right'.

But she wasn't right, mate. She wasn't right at all.


Before and after dust storm engulfed Mars.
Image credit: NASA

You see, Rover Curiosity is nuclear powered and can withstand anything from the vacuum of space to the scorching/freezing temperatures a highly volatile planet can provide. 

Opportunity, on the other hand, is a bit more "Greenpeace" if you will.

Oppy (that's what we call her at HQ) is solar powered and when a total planet is locked down on account of a mass dust storm, we got serious problems. 

The storm starting in May reached full blackout mode in a matter of weeks and Oppy's battery reserves a few more weeks after that. With a blanket covering Mar's surface Oppy was in for a bit of a hibernation against her will. 


Opportunity's view from Mars' surface.
Image credit: NASA

Now at the mid-point of August, it appears the worst of the storm is over and dissipation of the dust and debris has begun. Spoke to one of the yanks at NASA and he reckons within a few weeks we'll be back in action. Good bloke, fancies guns a bit TOO much though. 

We reckon we are in for at least 2 months of dust until we see the surface of Mars again, unfortunately. The reasoning is simple, Martian summer heats up the planet and dust rises into the atmosphere which creates wind, then the wind kicks up more dust and creates even more wind.

That's how you can get a storm that lasts for months and why we feel a little pessimistic on the matter. It goes on, and on, and on.

When Martian summer subsides, we will see a new Mars with never before seen mountains and valleys carved from months of dusty wind. Yeah seriously. Dust from these storms can reach upwards of 60kms into the sky. 

A storm like this one, especially for how long it has been raging, could actually prove fatal to poor Oppy.

Opportunity Rover needs the sun to power up her batteries and the batteries power up her "energy-intensive survival heaters" which do exactly like they sound and stop her batteries from freezing to death. 

Oppy has been in hibernation for far too long at this point and there's no telling what the cold lonely nights have done to her power supply. We can only guess the damage, but if there's one thing you can take solace in, its that Oppy is a survivor. 

Oppy was only meant to live for around 92 days and yet Oppy has thrived for 14 and a half years! We are trying to keep the spirits up around the office by thinking of the times Oppy was counted out and pulled through. We love that little Wall-E looking sheila I tell you what.

With more dust falling from the atmosphere than there is rising, we have some telltale signs that Martian summer is ending and hopefully we see Oppy again soon and reestablish the connection to check her vitals.

We are constantly on the lookout for any sign of Oppy and we'll let you know if anything changes.

Thank you for staying abreast of our comings and goings and keep looking toward the skies as we push further into the deep unknown.

#Space_Aus

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