A vast dust storm fourteen million square miles across has swept Mars, but while one NASA rover has gone silent, it doesn’t seem to have dampened NASA’s Curiosity’s spirits.
Curiosity has captured a breathtaking selfie from the surface of the Red Planet.
In case you’re wondering how a robot without a selfie stick can do this, it’s actually been assembled by visual artist Sean Doran, from 100 separate NASA shots.
It was shared online by NASA this week – at the same time as NASA engineers admitted they had heard nothing from Curiosity’s ‘sister’ rover, Opportunity.
The storm now covers a quarter of the planet.
The Opportunity team is now assuming that the charge in the 15-year-old rover’s batteries has dipped to a level where it enters low power fault mode.
NASA said in a statement, ‘As soon as the orbiter team saw how close the storm was to Opportunity, they notified the rover’s team to begin preparing contingency plans.’
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‘In a matter of days, the storm had ballooned. Full dust storms like this one are not surprising, but are infrequent. They can crop up suddenly but last weeks, even months’
NASA is now working on the assumption that the Rover has powered down to ‘wait out’ the storm.
NASA says, ‘If the rover’s computer determines that its batteries don’t have enough charge, it will again put itself back to sleep. Due to an extreme amount of dust over Perseverance Valley, mission engineers believe it is unlikely the rover has enough sunlight to charge back up for at least the next several days.’