This simulated image shows the gradual darkening of the Opportunity. According to the atmospheric opacity, the researchers classify the dimness caused by sandstorms into different levels. The numerical unit is tau. On the left side, when tau is 1, the sun at 3 or 4 pm is still clearly visible and bright. The higher the right tau is, the highest is the right one. At this time, the sun is only a weak spot.
On June 15th, Beijing time, NASA's Opportunity Mars rover is now in danger. It was trapped in a huge dust storm. The air was covered with dust as fine as powder and completely blocked the sun.
NASA had transferred the opportunity number to the power-saving mode last week, suspending all scientific tasks to extend its life. The opportunity number should be reported to the Earth on a regular basis and usually enter hibernation. But on Tuesday, it did not contact the Earth as planned, so that people can not help but worry about its safety. Even worse, we cannot confirm whether it is safe.
“Now we can only wait quietly. Every day we monitor whether there is an opportunity signal to return, ready to respond. "Johna & Middot, John Callas, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory Opportunity Program Manager, said at a media meeting on Wednesday.
Opportunity is powered by solar energy, so the current state of not seeing the sun is equivalent to its death sentence. If the battery is depleted and the solar panel does not receive enough light to recharge, the opportunity number may be "grounded" on the surface of Mars. The power generation efficiency in the dormant state is very low and eventually will not be enough to power the built-in clock. Although the clock may return to normal, but it takes a long time to wait for the opportunity number to be awakened, reset the timer, and then enter the "dormancy-wake-up" cycle until it receives sunlight again to reconnect with the earth. connection.
However, we still have hope that Opportunity may not be completely defeated by Mars' cold, like its egg sister, Spirit. Opportunity numbers can tolerate low temperatures as low as minus 55 degrees during hibernation. Fortunately, due to the insulation effect of sand and dust, plus the Opportunity number being located in summer, the temperature near the Opportunity should not fall below minus thirty-eight degrees. "The opportunity number should be able to get through this dust storm," Carras pointed out, "The dust disappeared, and the opportunity was recharged, and we should be able to contact us." ”
The dust storm was extremely violent. The density of dust was enough to cover the bright sunlight at noon and covered an area of 14 million square miles (about 36.26 million square kilometers), equivalent to a quarter of the total area of Mars. Mars had also experienced global dust storms for several weeks or even months before, and this sandstorm may also be delayed and the scale will continue to expand.
NASA researchers plan to use information collected by Opportunity (if possible), Curiosity on the other side of Mars, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, Mars Odyssey Satellite, and Mars Atmospheric and Volatile Evolution Mission Detector (MAVEN). , keep a close watch on this sandstorm. They hope to use the collected data to predict possible dust storms in the future, and to determine what factors can cause regional dust storms to expand into global dust storms.
In the regional dust storms on Mars, only a dozen times in the modern history records have expanded to the global scope. “Rich and middot, the chief scientist of the Mars Project Office of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory,” said Zürich, “The dust storm can reach global dust storm levels in a few days. ”
The picture shows the gradual increase of Martian sandstorms.
Researchers on the NASA Insights rover mission are also closely tracking the progress of the dust storm. The number is expected to land on Mars in November this year and it will still be in the dusty season. This sandstorm is not expected to last so long, but another dust storm may occur. While the Quest mission prepares for a global dust storm, sandstorms may still pose a challenge for landing.
However, for now, all attention has been placed on Opportunity. The task engineer believes that the opportunity number may take a while to get enough sunlight to charge the battery. Because of the failure to contact the opportunity number on Tuesday, the researchers believe that the opportunity number may switch to the so-called "low-power failure mode." In addition to the built-in clock, the system is shut down. The built-in clock will periodically wake the computer and check if the battery is charged. If you have recharged, the Opportunity Number will restart; if not, it will continue to sleep.
"We are very worried, but we also believe that this dust storm will eventually dissipate, and Opportunity will reconnect with us. "Karlas said.
The opportunity number landed on Mars on January 25, 2004. The original planned mission was only 90 days long, but so far it has been in service for 14 years and a half, far exceeding the original plan. The Opportunity mileage totaled 28.06 miles (approximately 45 kilometers), which has undergone several upgrades during this period. In 2007, it also suffered a major dust storm.
Despite the success, the Opportunity Code cannot be forever served. Even the most rugged and durable machine will have a day of end of life.
"We are all praying for Opportunity." It is a very strong Mars rover. "This is a small, successful rally vehicle, which greatly enhances our ability to explore Mars," said Jim Watzin, NASA's head of mission exploration at Mars. . ”
Neither the general public nor the NASA staff can only wait silently. Callas said that this mood is like waiting for the lover to wake up from a coma.
"Our team has a deep affection for Opportunity. Its every move will affect our hearts," Karas said. "At present, our mood is very heavy." This sandstorm is a major threat. It does not know how long it will last, nor does it know what the surrounding environment will be like after dissipating. We are all worried about this. ”