ASU helping NASA track down missing Mars rover

TEMPE, Ariz. (KSAZ) - It's been nearly two months and there's still no sign of "Opportunity," NASA's rover on the planet Mars.

The car-sized space machine signed off when it disappeared inside a massive dust storm on June 10, and Arizona State University is working with NASA to track it.

"This is the strongest dust storm that we've seen on Mars in the history of observing it, so we had no idea how bad this was going to be and how long it's going to keep 'Opportunity' asleep for," Tanya Harrison said.

If the dust starts to clear from atop the rover's solar panels, scientists say "Opportunity" will awaken, but so far, 65 days have passed and still -- silence.

"We just have to keep trying," Harrison said. "We send what we call a 'beep' pretty much everyday and wait and see if the rover sends a 'beep' back."

Researchers say the Martian dust storms on the Red Planet are actually a lot like those we see in the Valley.

"Here, you can get a lot of damage from the wind itself, like fallen trees and things like that," Harrison said. "On Mars, it's mostly just, there's enough of an atmosphere to aloft the dust and then it just hangs there for a long time. It's kind of like shaking up a snow globe and waiting for all the snow to settle."

Will the dust ever come off of "Opportunity" on its own?

Scientists tell us it's a matter of playing the waiting game.