Mars rover Opportunity pronounced dead after 15 years of service

14 February, 2019, 09:55 | Author: Sherry Houston
  • Opportunity

The final commands were sent Tuesday night.

"I declare the Opportunity mission as complete", Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate told a news conference at mission headquarters in Pasadena, California. The two slow-moving vehicles landed on opposite sides of the planet in 2004 for a mission that was meant to last 90 days. But the rover got stuck in the dunes of windblown material on the Martian surface.

Rover robots found signs of water in the first rocks they encountered on Mars, as rocks near the aircraft's landing site contained pearl-shaped rocks. "So that really confirmed one of these big questions about Mars' past".

Opportunity was only supposed to stay on Mars for 90 days, but has now lasted an astounding 14 years.

John Callas, manager of the MER project, said in a statement that "we have made every reasonable engineering effort to try to recover Opportunity and have determined that the likelihood of receiving a signal is far too low to continue recovery efforts". All the dust in the air prevented sunlight from reaching Opportunity's solar panels, and the robot was unable to recharge its batteries. "We would all love it if our cellphone batteries lasted this long", Callas said.

The program has had an extraordinary record of success: 28.1 miles (45.2 kilometers) traversed, more than the Soviet Union's Lunokhod 2 moon rover during the 1970s and more than the rover that United States astronauts took to the moon on the Apollo 17 mission in 1972. If this can't be done, then the rover will most likely stop working. That storm darkened the skies and cut off of the rover's solar power. Once the storm had passed, engineers were hopeful that the sun would wake Opportunity up again.

"It probably won't be enough, going into winter, to move around and survive". "Even though it's a machine and we're saying goodbye, it's very hard and very poignant". "Science is a team sport, and that's what we're celebrating today". JPL Director Mike Watkins explained that they had rigged a system in which they turned the rover off at night to save energy, which he likened to flipping the breaker on your house off at night to turn the light out, and back on in the morning before the ice cream melts.

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For Spirit, the official time of death was declared on June 8, 2011, after the rover had travelled 7.7 kilometres across the Red Planet.

And NASA's InSight spacecraft, the first robotic lander created to study the deep interior of a distant world, touched down safely on the surface of Mars in November with instruments to detect planetary seismic rumblings never measured anywhere but Earth.

In November 2018 NASA announced that it has selected the location where its Mars 2020 rover will land on the Red Planet.

Neither rover was created to endure extreme weather - unlike Nasa's nuclear-powered Curiosity rover, which continues to trawl Mars for information.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine noted that while Opportunity stopped communicating around the same time be began his service with the administration, he was still in awe at the achievements the rover and its team were able to achieve throughout their mission.

In that future age, will someone visit Opportunity's resting place?

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