NASA Declares Its Longest-Running Mars Rover Dead After 15 Years

NASA Declares Its Longest-Running Mars Rover Dead After 15 Years

A dust storm that swept the planet in May 2018 is suspected to have blocked the machine from receiving sun rays to charge its solar panels.

Opportunity landed on Mars in 2004 and covered 28 miles (45 km) on the planet.

"We are doing everything in our power to communicate with Opportunity, but as time goes on, the probability of a successful contact with the rover continues to diminish".

"Cornell astronomer Steve Squyres, who was the principal investigator of the Mars Exploration Rover mission, recalled that the initial evidence suggested Mars" ancient water was highly acidic.

Unlike NASA's nuclear-powered Curiosity rover still chugging along on Mars, Opportunity and Spirit were never created to endure such severe weather.

"However, this anniversary can not help but be a little bittersweet as at present we don't know the rover's status", Callas said at the time.

In 2021, the recently named Rosalind Franklin robot, part of the European-Russian ExoMars mission, is slated to land on a different part of the planet, raising the population of active rovers to two. Spirit was pronounced dead in 2011 a year after it got stuck in sand and communication ceased.

Callas speculated that the balky heater may have played a role in Opportunity's demise.

For months, Callas and his colleagues hoped that Opportunity kept enough power in reserve to wake itself up and get back in contact with Earth.

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Since then, the JPL has tried over 1,000 times to re-establish communication, to no avail. "Science is an emotional affair, it's a team sport", he said.

Astrophysicist Gemma Lavender tweeted: "Think we may be saying goodbye to the Opportunity rover".

The MER mission also changed the way scientists thought about solar system exploration.

Before the solar-powered duo touched down in January 2004, humanity had successfully dropped just four spacecraft on the Martian surface: the Soviet Union's stationary Mars 3 lander in 1971 (which ceased functioning just seconds after touchdown), NASA's similarly sessile Viking 1 and Viking 2 landers in 1976, and the US space agency's Pathfinder mission in 1997. He went on to say that scientists will be benefitting for years from the data taken during Opportunity's 14 years spent roving 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. After that, it headed to Endurance crater where it drove down the side and studied the strata of Mars. This storm in particular was one of the thickest NASA has ever seen.

Opportunity was part of the NASA's larger Mars Exploration Rover mission, and was sent to space in 2004 alongside its twin rover, Spirit, carrying pieces of the World Trade Center.

Opportunity was exploring Mars' Perseverance Valley, fittingly, when the fiercest dust storm in decades hit and contact was lost. "Also, if you had the opportunity to bring 180 kilograms of stuff back from the surface of Mars, the last thing I'd want to bring is something where I know exactly what it's made of". That's the place that they were created to go.

"They were intended from the outset to be robotic field geologists", Squyres said.

"We built them for Mars".

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