"The storm, which was first detected on May 30, now blankets 14 million square miles (35 million square kilometers) of Martian surface-a quarter of the planet".
On Tuesday, NASA's attempt to make contact with the rover failed, suggesting the battery level had finally dipped below 24 volts.
The mission clock will trigger the computer to turn back on to check power levels sporadically, NASA said. "The good news there is the dust storm has warmed temperatures on Mars".
Artist's conception of a Mars Exploration Rover, which included Opportunity and Spirit. Engineers will monitor the rover's power levels closely in the week to come. Data from the transmission let engineers know the rover still has enough battery charge to communicate with ground controllers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Opportunity can sit in the low-power mode "for an extended period of time", Callas said.More news: National Basketball Association title odds hint at LeBron’s next team
Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has been delivering science from the surface of the Red Planet for over 14 years now - an wonderful accomplishment for a robot that was only intended for an initial 90 day mission.
The dust storm will cause temperatures to drop and blot out the sun, which provides the robot with the energy it needs to operate. In that case, the rover will simply remain asleep until the sky clears and the battery charge increases enough to trigger safety routines that will wake up the flight computer.
That storm, which covered as much area as North America and Russian Federation combined as of today (June 12), has engulfed the golf-cart-size Opportunity rover, plunging its environs into perpetual darkness.
But it could be about to deliver some very bad news during a press conference at 5:30 p.m British time (1:30pm EDT) to "discuss a massive Martian dust storm affecting operations of the agency's Opportunity rover and what scientists can learn from the various missions studying this unprecedented event". And if there's one thing Opportunity has proven, it is that it's capable of enduring!More news: ‘Trash Panda’ scaled a Minnesota skyscraper, and everyone loved it
Both landers were built to last at least three months in the harsh environment of Mars and while mission managers were hopeful they would exceed their design life, there were no guarantees.
Losing the Sun has serious consequences for this solar powered robot.
The rover touched down on the red planet with its twin Spirit in January 2004, and the robotic emissaries got to work right away in different parts of the world.
But the current dust storm is a definite challenge. NASA ceased Opportunity's science operations on June 4 as engineers prepared to secure the craft against the storm, Callas said. "They can crop up suddenly but last weeks, even months". That wind kicks up yet more dust, creating a feedback loop that NASA scientists are still trying to understand. NASA's other active Mars rover, Curiosity, is better able to cope with the darkening storm because its power comes from a plutonium-fueled generator.More news: John Boyega tweets about 'Star Wars' fan harassment, Mark Hamill wades in