Saturday, 16 February, 2019

NASA rover finally bites the dust on Mars after 15 years

Opportunity NASA's InSight lander to place heat flow probe on Mars
Sandy Nunez | 13 February, 2019, 23:20

Opportunity was, by far, the longest-lasting lander on Mars.

NASA's Opportunity, the Mars rover that was built to operate just three months but kept going and going, was pronounced dead Wednesday, 15 years after it landed on the red planet.

NASA's Opportunity rover mission was one of the most successful and enduring feats of interplanetary exploration.

No, I'm not crying over a Mars rover, YOU'RE crying.

NASA made its final attempts to contact its estranged Martian rover, Opportunity, late Tuesday.

As for Opportunity, "It has given us a larger world", Callas said.

The missing vehicle was spotted three months later.

The experience inspired her to pursue a career at JPL; Fraeman is now a deputy project scientist on the Mars exploration rover project, and works with Opportunity nearly daily. However, scientists were still unable to talk to the vehicle.

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Opportunity landed on January 25, 2004 and has been sending information on the geology and atmosphere of the Red Planet for scientists to study. They rocketed from Cape Canaveral a month apart in 2003. It exceeded expectations more than 50-fold by staying operational for over 14 years.

"This is a celebration of so many achievements", said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, during Wednesday's press conference at the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

In the end, Opportunity set endurance and distance records that could stand for years, if not decades.

Rolling along until communication ceased last June, Opportunity roamed a record 28 miles (45 kilometers) around Mars and worked longer than any other lander - anywhere, ever.

Opportunity's mission has led to many discoveries about the Red Planet, but perhaps the most exciting was when Opportunity found evidence that Mars once had water and supported conditions for sustaining microbial life.

The swirling maelstrom may have dumped dust onto the solar panels which power the rover, meaning it can not recharge its battery to make contact with mission control back on Earth.

When the sky finally cleared, the rover remained silent, its internal clock possibly so scrambled that it no longer knew when to sleep or wake up to receive commands.

"For more than a decade, Opportunity has been an icon in the field of planetary exploration, teaching us about Mars's ancient past as a wet, potentially habitable planet, and revealing uncharted Martian landscapes", associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate Thomas Zurbuchen said.