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NASA's Opportunity rover is battling a HUGE dust storm on Mars - and it could prove lethal

Mirror logo Mirror 12-06-2018 Shivali Best

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It’s been exploring Mars since 2004, but it seems that NASA ’s Opportunity Rover may have run into a spot of bother.

The rover is currently battling a huge dust storm on the red planet, which could prove lethal.

Opportunity relies on solar panels to provide power and to recharge its batteries, which can be problematic in dusty conditions.

NASA's Opportunity rover © NASA NASA's Opportunity rover

Thankfully, NASA has confirmed that it has received a transmission from Opportunity - a sign that the rover has enough battery charge to communicate.

The transmission showed that Opportunity is currently at a temperature of about -29°C.

A spokesperson for NASA said: “One saving grace of dust storms is that they can actually limit the extreme temperature swings experienced on the Martian surface.

a close up of the moon: Opportunity has been on Mars since 2004 © Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited Opportunity has been on Mars since 2004

“The same swirling dust that blocks out sunlight also absorbs heat, raising the ambient temperature surrounding Opportunity.”

Over the next week, NASA will monitor the rover’s power levels closely.

While its heaters are vitally important to keep the rover alive, they use up valuable battery power, meaning it takes a fine balancing act to survive in sub-freezing conditions.

This global map of Mars shows the growing dust storm. The blue dot indicates the approximate location of Opportunity © Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited This global map of Mars shows the growing dust storm. The blue dot indicates the approximate location of Opportunity

The storm was first detected on June 1, and now spans more than 7 million square miles - an area greater than North America.

This isn’t the first time that Opportunity has had to contend with a dust storm.

In 2007, a huge storm on Mars led to two weeks of minimal operations, including several days with no contact from the rover.

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