Data from orbit and from Curiosity at Gale Crater confirms that the dust storm that has shut down Opportunity is now a global storm, encircling Mars.
The Martian dust storm has grown in size and is now officially a “planet-encircling” (or “global”) dust event.
Though Curiosity is on the other side of Mars from Opportunity, dust has steadily increased over it, more than doubling over the weekend. The sunlight-blocking haze, called “tau,” is now above 8.0 at Gale Crater — the highest tau the mission has ever recorded. Tau was last measured near 11 over Opportunity, thick enough that accurate measurements are no longer possible for Mars’ oldest active rover.
This will be first global storm to occur on Mars since Curiosity landed in 2012, thus giving scientists the best opportunity to study such an event.
Meanwhile, Opportunity remains silent. This does not mean it is dead, but that it doesn’t have enough sunlight to charge its batteries. It might die during this storm if the storm lasts long enough, but we won’t know one way or the other until the storm finally eases.
From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.
He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.
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