NASA Chief Scientist Says Humans Will 'Absolutely' Live On Mars

Christopher Davidson
June 13, 2018

In the second paper, scientists describe the discovery of seasonal variations in methane in the Martian atmosphere over the course of nearly three Mars years, which is almost six Earth years. On Sunday, the rover sent a transmission back to Earth, letting NASA engineers know the rover still has enough battery life for basic communication.

The rover has proved hardier than expected by lasting almost 15 years, despite being designed for a 90-day mission.

Nasa's Curiosity Rover has found organic molecules and methane releases on the planet Mars announced NASA's Press Release on Thursday. "In a matter of days, the storm had ballooned", explained NASA's spokespersons in an official statement.

And this is a problem - unlike Curiosity, which launched later with a nuclear generator, Opportunity relies on solar panels for power, and batteries for storage. It now covers an area of 7 million mi² (18 million km²) or about that of North America, including Opportunity's location in Perseverance Valley. According to the officials at NASA, the multipurpose spacecraft - Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter of NASA first spotted the massive, Martian dust storm. The space agency said that this undesirable condition is similar to that of "an extremely smoggy day that blots out sunlight". 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. It's power levels had dropped significantly by June 6, leading the agency to hold its scientific work for some time and use the remaining energy only for basic and most essential operations. It's not unlike running a auto in the winter so that the cold doesn't sap its battery charge.

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Full dust storms like this one are not surprising, but are infrequent. The courageous little rover is continuing to weather the storm; it sent a transmission back to Earth Sunday morning, which is a good sign.

Opportunity's original mission was expected to last just 90 days, but the rover is still operational almost 15 years later. They can start out of nowhere and continue for days or maybe even months.

Despite this, Opportunity did call home yesterday through a communications relay with the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter - a positive sign despite the worsening dust storm. During summer in the south, the Sun warms dust particles, causing them to rise up higher into the sky. There's much less light available to recharge the batteries this time, so the Opportunity team is hoping for a shorter storm. 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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