Opportunity special report by A.J.S. Rayl, The Planetary Society

converted PNM fileJune 15, 2018: Opportunity Pummelled by Massive Dust Storm, Hunkers Down to Sleep: Entrenched in the west rim of Endeavour Crater, veteran robot field geologist Opportunity is hunkered down in Perseverance Valley in a kind of hibernation mode. The rover is sleeping to save what little power she has left in hopes of surviving a dust storm the likes of which the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission has never experienced, a dust storm so rare that every NASA asset at the Red Planet will be checking it out.

“I’m not sure what to say other than this is the worst storm Opportunity has ever seen, and we’re doing what we can, crossing our fingers and hoping for the best,” MER Principal Investigator Steve Squyres, of Cornell University, told The MER Update.

During the last two weeks, what began as a regional Martian dust storm expanded into an event, and then, when it moved over Endeavour Crater, it stalled. As it churned, the winds lofted a huge amount of dust into the atmosphere, blotting out the sky, turning day into night and leaving Opportunity blanketed in the powdery rusty-red stuff of Mars.

“The dust here is thicker than anything I have ever encountered, going back to Viking missions,” said MER Deputy Principal Investigator Ray Arvidson of Washington University St. Louis, who served as Science Team Leader for the imaging system on NASA’s Viking Landers from 1977 to 1982. “It’s dark, like the end of twilight dark.”  [More at link]

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