Many great explorers quests’ were brought to a standstill by weather â€šÃ„Ã¬ Odysseus hung out on an island, Magellan paused in Patagonia, and Amundsen shivered near Antartica’s coast. Following in the footsteps of these great and weather respecting men are two little robots, Spirit and Opportunity. These Mars Exploration Rovers currently hunkered down, with all essential systems shut off, while they wait for dust storms to end. (image top: no storms, image bottom: with storms, image credit: NASA / JPL / MSSS)
“We’re rooting for our rovers to survive these storms, but they were never designed for conditions this intense,” said Alan Stern, of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. The rovers are more than 1200 days into what was intended to be a 90-day mission.
Currently, regional dust storms rage over most of the Martian surface. At their worst, these storms reduced Opportunity’s solar power to 80% of its normal level. If the rovers’ batteries drawn completely, the rovers will freeze and die. To conserve power, last week NASA instructed the rovers to stop calling home everyday, and to just sit still and be quiet.
The rovers are under new instructions to call in every third day. As of Monday, the rovers were still alive, and their power situation was somewhat improved. A new status report is expected later today, Thursday, July 26.