By MARCIA DUNN , AP Aerospace Writer
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A NASA rover on Mars has fallen silent as a gigantic dust storm envelops the planet and blots out the sun.
The Martian dust storm blotting out the sun above Opportunity has continued to intensify. It blankets a quarter of the planet. All rover subsystems are off, except a mission clock, programmed to wake the computer to check power levels. Full status report: https://t.co/VwuuPwEpPA pic.twitter.com/rQvHDsxuQj— Spirit and Oppy (@MarsRovers) June 13, 2018
Flight controllers tried late Tuesday night to contact Opportunity, but the rover did not respond. The storm has been growing since the end of May and now covers one-quarter of the planet.
Science operations for Opportunity are temporarily suspended while it waits out a Martian dust storm. The dust in the atmosphere is impacting the amount of power generated by the rover’s solar panels. https://t.co/897LCuqMWX (Blue dot is approx location of rover.) pic.twitter.com/tY4aVfNyEz— Spirit and Oppy (@MarsRovers) June 9, 2018
Controllers expect it will be several more days before there's enough sunlight to recharge Opportunity's battery through its solar panels. NASA says the battery is likely so low that only a clock is still working, to wake the spacecraft for periodic power-level checks.
NASA launched the twin rovers Opportunity and Spirit in 2003 to study Martian rocks and soil. Spirit hasn't worked for several years. Opportunity, however, has kept exploring well past its expected mission lifetime.