Mars Opportunity rover may not make it through a massive dust storm

The Mars sky has turned to night for the Mars Opportunity rover, due to a massive dust storm.
Simulated views of a darkening Martian sky blotting out the sun from NASA’s Opportunity rover’s point of view, with the right side simulating Opportunity’s current view in the global dust storm. Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/TAMU

The Mars Opportunity rover, which has been exploring the red planet for the past 15 years, is in danger of succumbing to a fierce dust storm that will soon encircle the entire planet, NASA scientists said Wednesday. The dust storm is blocking the sunlight that the rover needs in order to charge its batteries, forcing it to go into an emergency mode to conserve energy.

Why it matters: The ongoing dust storm is no ordinary tempest, it's reached a severity that has not been seen before in the nearly two decades of detailed observations, NASA said. The Opportunity rover is one of several rovers that NASA operates on Mars. Its research helps us learn more about the red planet in order to pave the way for eventual human exploration there.