“Siblings are very often opposite.”
Actress Alycia Debnam-Carey was talking about human siblings when she said the above line and although we might not be talking about humans, the quote very much seems to apply on what is happening on Mars right now. While NASA’s Opportunity rover is fighting for its life on the red planet with a monster dust storm threatening its very existence, Curiosity is definitely having a good time.
The 2.5-billion research machine sent out by NASA is currently stationed in Gale Crater on Mars, a 96-mile-wide valley that scientists believe once housed a giant lake. The rover sent out several images of itself to NASA by rotating its arm 360 degrees, according to Fox News, which was then composited by NASA’S Jet Propulsion Lab scientist Sean Doran to create one image.
What emerged was a spectacular selfie of Curiosity rover on the vast Martian lands.
— CNET (@CNET) June 18, 2018
Meanwhile, even as Curiosity is constantly in touch with NASA during what has been described as an “unprecedented” dust storm on the red planet, scientists are concerned about the well-being of Opportunity, Curiosity’s elder sibling, which has been on Mars for about 15 years now.
As of last week, the massive dust storm had covered as much as a quarter of the entire planet — nearly six million square miles — more than the entire area of USA and Russia combined.
More worryingly, it has stopped the functionality of Opportunity, which works entirely on solar power. Unlike Curiosity, it is stationed on Mars’ Perseverance Valley, which is the located near the center of the storm. With the dust storm blanketing Mars and Opportunity in a state of “perpetual night,” the rover has been forced to go into hibernation.
“It’s gotten so bad she’s not talking to us,” Bill Nelson, chief of the Opportunity mission’s engineering team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, told Mashable.
“It’s a bit scary — we like to hear from our rover.”
NASA scientists are still holding out hope that Opportunity will be able to ride through the massive Mars dust storm, having seen off a similar situation back in 2007 when the rover crouched for a period of about two weeks in low-power mode when a huge dust storm had blanketed Mars.
Curiosity, on the other hand, does not suffer from similar problems because unlike Opportunity, it relies on plutonium and not the sun as its energy source. It is also not directly affected by the dust storm.
So while one sibling continues to fight for its life, the other is sending out selfies. NASA scientists, having given birth to both, no doubt find themselves in a conundrum.