NASA Finds Ancient Organic Material, Mysterious Methane On Mars

Federico Mansilla
Junio 13, 2018

Although dust storms aren't uncommon on Mars, they can be deadly to the rovers. Though Opportunity was created to only operate for 90 days, it has continued to explore the planet for over 15 years.

NASA's Curiosity rover has found new evidence preserved in rocks on Mars that suggests the planet could have supported ancient life, as well as new evidence in the Martian atmosphere that relates to the search for current life on the Red Planet. This is a problem because the rover uses solar panels to provide its power and recharge its batteries.

To the delight of the engineers, they received a transmission from Opportunity on Sunday morning, a positive sign that the rover still has enough battery to communicate with ground controllers.

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A vast dust storm larger than the entire North American continent is now raging on Mars-and it has forced NASA to suspend the scientific operations of its Opportunity rover. "Giant dust storms like this are not surprising on Mars, but occur quite rarely". More importantly, the swirling dust has raised the atmospheric opacity, or "tau", in the valley in the past few days. In 2007, an even larger dust storm swept through the Red Planet, resulting in two weeks of minimal operations that included several days with no contact to save power. On June 6th, the power levels of the Rover seems to have a major drop, and it forced to stop all the science experiments to conserve power. It's not unlike running a auto in the winter so that the cold doesn't sap its battery charge. The map was produced by the Mars Color Imager (MARCI) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft. However, they can develop seemingly overnight and last weeks, even months. The rover's initial mission timeline was just 90 days, but it's now approaching its 15th full year of operation. If the storm lasts too long, the main concern will be the Martian cold, a danger Opportunity has faced in the past, NASA officials said. Despite this, both rovers have vastly exceeded expectations: they were only created to last 90 days each.

A recent dust storm on Mars has made NASA's Opportunity rover weak and is unable to perform as it is expected to.

"The question of whether life might have originated or existed on Mars is a lot more opportune now that we know that organic molecules were present on its surface at that time". During the time, the rover stopped phoning in to NASA to save power, defying NASA scientists who had anxious if the rover would be able to power its vital survival heaters with the low power levels caused by that dust storm.

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