Contact with Opportunity lost

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The Opportunity science team has lost contact with Opportunity as it automatically shuts down operations to survive low battery power due to the dust storm.

This does not necessarily mean the rover is dead. Depending on how long this period of low power lasts, the rover could return to life once the dust storm passes. Or not. We can only wait and see.

A press conference today on the dust storm and Opportunity’s status begins at 1:30 Eastern time today.



  • Cotour

    Q: Does the rover detect these conditions and then fold itself up for protection and wait to detect favorable conditions in order to reestablish communications?

    If the storm is big enough and lasts long enough I would expect that there is a danger of it being entirely buried and entombed for eternity or until the winds uncover it?

  • Cotour: The amount of dust involved is tiny. Even at its worst, the only dust concern would be whether there will be a very thin layer on the solar panels or on the camera lens, affecting future operations. In both cases, the amount of dust is still tiny, and with the solar panels, it has historically been blown away very quickly. With the cameras, they are unworried about the amount of dust.

    The rover does not “fold itself up.” Doesn’t need to. This is NOT the kind of dust storm you see on Earth, or in movies. It might block the light from the sun, but if you were standing there you would hardly be bothered by the dust. The rover simply turns off instruments to save power and waits out the storm.

  • Cotour

    Yes, my default imaginings about a dust or sand storm is more geared to an earth storm in the Sahara desert or images of the Sphynx being 75 percent buried in sand.

    Its interesting the difference between the two atmospheres and planets.

  • Kirk

    I believe that the difference isn’t just the atmospheres, but also the dust itself. On Earth, the oceans help limit the amount of very fine dust particles, as those sufficiently small to remain airborne for long periods of time will eventually fall into the ocean, adding to the benthic ooze (more properly, the pelagic sediment). Without oceans, Mars lacks a sink for its ultra-fine dust particles.

  • Robert Pratt

    Lesson: First colonists should be from the Lubbock region and maybe the middle east. We’re used to such storms.

  • Richard M

    This of course is why Andy Weir’s premise of a dust storm of a magnitude possible to knock over the MAV in THE MARTIAN was not remotely realistic – as Weir himself admitted. He was just unable to come up with a more realistic scenario for why a NASA crew would leave behind one of their own on Mars.

    Let’s hope Opportunity can ride this thing out, though.

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