Biggest Martian dust storm on record is clearing up after nearly three months, raising hope that NASA’s stranded, Opportunity rover will soon come back to life. The storm was first detected on May 30, and the US space agency’s 15-year-old rover was last heard from on June 10, when it went into sleep mode as dust blocked out the Sun and darkness enveloped the Red Planet.
A NASA statement issued on Thursday called the situation critical,but added that “the rover team is cautiously optimistic, knowing that Opportunity has overcome significant challenges during its 14-plus years on Mars.” If no successful contact can be made, NASA says it will give up active efforts in mid-October.
ALSO READ | NASA scientists spot water on Jupiter’s Great Red Spot
“If we do not hear back after 45 days, the team will be forced to conclude that the Sun-blocking dust and the Martian cold have conspired to cause some type of fault from which the rover will more than likely not recover,” said John Callas, Opportunity project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
What is Opportunity Rover
Opportunity Rover, also known as Mars Exploration Rover, is NASA’s robotic rover active on Mars since 2004. It was launched on July 7, 2003 as a part of the NASA’S Mars Exploration Rover program, it landed at Meridiani Planum on January 25, 2004.
ALSO READ | NASA’s InSight mission to find how Mars mountains formed
(With inputs from agencies)