NASA to Hold Media Teleconference on Martian Dust Storm, Mars Opportunity Rover

NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity recorded the dawn of the rover’s 4,999th Martian day, or sol, with its Panoramic Camera (Pancam) on Feb. 15, 2018, yielding this processed, approximately true-color scene. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ./Texas A&M)

PASADENA, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA will host a media teleconference at 1:30 p.m. EDT Wednesday, June 13, 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.

The storm is one of the most intense ever observed on the Red Planet. As of June 10, it covered more than 15.8 million square miles (41 million square kilometers) – about the area of North America and Russia combined. It has blocked out so much sunlight, it has effectively turned day into night for Opportunity, which is located near the center of the storm, inside Mars’ Perseverance Valley.

Participants in the teleconference will include:

  • John Callas, Opportunity project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)
  • Rich Zurek, Mars Program Office chief scientist at JPL
  • Jim Watzin, director of the Mars Exploration Program at NASA Headquarters
  • Dave Lavery, program executive at NASA Headquarters for the Opportunity and Curiosity rovers

Visuals accompanying the teleconference will be posted at the start of the event at:

Audio of the teleconference will be streamed live at:

The teleconference andvisuals will be carried live and archived on:

To ask questions via social media during the televised event, use the hashtag #askNASA

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Oh man, and I’m planning on abusing time on a 90″ telescope during Mars’ opposition to get some full disk images and grab some eyepiece time. Hopefully it’s over before that week. This storm will effect folks trying to look up, and folks trying to look “down” as well.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    So this raises a point about viable power options on the surface of mars for human habitations. If a good sized dust storm shuts off the power for days at a time, you either better have a big store of synthesized CH4 and O2, or …. The obvious that nobody wants to talk about.

  • Paul_Scutts

    Agreed, Andrew, it’s the real life occurrence of that dramatised in the series “Mars” produced by the National Geographic channel. Let’s hope that Opportunity gets through this “alive”. Regards, Paul.

  • Michael Halpern

    Well there are other ways to store power, but generally yes, you could also potentially use iron oxide to at least supplement O2 and use charcoal and other biofuels to supplement CH4, there’s also the propellant storage pressure and temperature as energy sources,

  • windbourne

    Or have Nuclear power, as well as look for geo-thermal.
    If you are going to use storage, then flow battery is probably your best bet.
    Sulfur flow battery is coming along and looks like it would be viable there.

  • Michael Halpern

    Especially for what you make there, there is also maybe wind for reducing loss rate during storm and metal refining, you would have most stuff under ground for insulation, as your metal furnace will be a source of heat and energy, it will be going and so will some other equipment to get it to an easily storable medium (bars or wire) you could use exercise equipment for additional power. Stirling generators will be a great way to go, it will be difficult especially early on, particularly when considering the storms can happen at any time of year, but far from unmanageable especially with how infrequent they are

    Fuel made for your ships is a good source cause you have it, so is CO as a precursor in CH4 production could just switch that fuel cell to generating from stored co instead of sending it to become CH4

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Nuclear is the best imported baseload power source. The other means could be made locally from local resources, but I’d really want that nuclear power plant that can provide the base minimum required power at least.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    But unless Mars has/had life and created fossil fuel deposits organic matter is probably going to be used for maintaining a carbon cycle aimed at food production. Not to mention even if Mars has fossil fuel sources you’ll need to generate synthetic oxidizers.

  • Michael Halpern

    The problem is such a reactor will be big and other than the fuel, you will likely have to make most of it locally, because you would likely be subterranean, you can save a lot of energy requied for heat, and anything that requires a large volume of water can effectively store thermal energy, likely what you would do is shut down antennas, reduce lighting and shut down any heavy equipment that doesn’t produce an exothermic reaction (furnace) or directly handle the furnace output, if you design your life support to be mostly biological, and use district heating you can get extremely efficient and have several additional power sources. 10kw nukes which is likely the largest you can transport, won’t do it but you really don’t need them either, if you design right

  • Michael Halpern

    Food waste and algea, algea is really good at co2 scrubbing and can be compressed and charred into near coke density and purity, as for oxidizer, iron oxide is a decent oxidizer used in thermite, the dust is an already granular iron oxide which is basically what you want

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Reactors can be small, and power can be ‘AND’ed’. So you can gang lower power reactor up to provide the current requirements. Musk is addressing this with his smart grid tie in technology Tesla is selling.

    Yes, two things I’d look for shortly after arriving at Mars would be natural graphite and heavy metals, not to mention hope for a Earth normal or better ratio of normal water to heavy water.

  • Jacob Samorodin

    Wind power? 🙂

  • Michael Halpern

    Yes but as you would want large amounts of water for aquatic farms, you can use that as thermal energy storage, which if in low power mode, will be a very large portion of the colony’s energy requirements, plus there’s Stirling generators

  • Michael Halpern

    The 10kw reactors also require weapons grade fuel

  • Lee

    Because of the low atmospheric pressure on Mars, a 20-30 mph wind doesn’t have nearly the energy to turn a turbine there as it does on the Earth. So wind power on Mars isn’t as easy as many think it is…

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  • Michael Halpern

    still viable to reduce energy loss during a storm, alternative is electrostatic, ionize incoming dust and discharge it as it passes, you can get a very small amount of power form rain like this, but possibly more from a dust storm

  • Lee

    Wow, you Mars zealot fanboys don’t let anything like, say, the laws of physics or engineering practicalities get in your way, do you? You guys have an answer for *everything*.

  • Michael Halpern

    no there’s no reason you couldn’t use it, if it can move a crap ton of iron oxide dust, it can be used to generate power

  • Michael Halpern

    I would prefer using biofuels, but every kwh you can scavenge gets you better chances if its a really long one and for having the energy to clean the panels after the storm

  • Paul451

    Oppy was still producing power when it stopped communicating, just at a low rate. Solar panels are pretty good with indirect light, and dust scatters more than it blocks.

    For a settlement, you would need to produce ISRU fuel, which requires football-fields of solar panels. If you’re growing local food, you’ll need a similar amount of power for either grow-lights or heating, or both, depending on the method you use. Habitat life-support power consumption would be trivial by comparison. Just suspending fuel production would increase power by a couple of orders of magnitude. And suspending food production would double that again. What’s left should keep you alive easily (with enough spare to keep the seedlings lit, and heating is less of an issue at night under a dust storm, unlike that retarded Nat.Geo drama. (Also who the fuck designs a pressure door to open outwards? Argh. Hate hate hate.))

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    At the 24 min mark it’s mentioned that the 15 year old batteries are still operating at 85% their rated capacity!!! Wow. That’s impressive.