After 15 Years, NASA Officially Ends Opportunity Mission on Mars

Science										
		
																	This dune-covered volcanic rock bed is one of the coolest places on Mars					
								
			
	
		Mike Wehner

NASA is planning to send more rovers to Mars, and some may even end up as robo-comrades alongside human explorers, if or when they show up. The Washington Post quotes Squyres as saying that Mars "is a cold and desolate world today, but in the distant past, in the time that the rocks explored by Spirit and Opportunity were formed, it was a very different world". The rover ends its mission with several unmatched feats.

Since then, the JPL has tried over 1,000 times to re-establish communication, to no avail. Front and center is a flight spare of Sojourner, left is a working sibling to Spirit and Opportunity, right is test rover Curiosity.

Communication with Opportunity was finally lost in June 2018, and as rugged as the vehicle was, it was no match for the severe dust storm it encountered. Shortly afterwards, a planet-wide dust storm enveloped Perseverance Valley, stranding the rover.

Farewell, Opportunity. We'll miss you. Because the rover is solar-powered, it was unable to charge its batteries and operate, presumably due to its solar panels being covered by a significant amount of dust, sand and dirt.

Built to last for 90 sols, a fancy word for Martian solar days, the gallant instrument-laden bot plowed on for 5,351 sols, or about 15 Earth years.

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

The Curiosity rover, which reached the Red Planet in August 2012, has more than 12 miles on its odometer.

Sky's USA correspondent Greg Milam reports.

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Opportunity was one of two slow-moving rovers that landed on the Red Planet in 2004. Steve Squyres, a professor at Cornell University in the USA studying the history of water on the Red Planet, called Mars a "dry, desolate world". After that period, they were planning to go into a "passive listening" mode, where they would stop sending signals and just monitor the rover's signals to see if it was calling home.

Opportunity started out in Eagle crater where it discovered hematite "blueberries", the first strong evidence for water on ancient Mars. This will determine Mars' subsurface temperature and thermal conductivity.

On Wednesday, Opportunity's team bid her farewell while looking to the foundations the mission laid.

It's lights out for Opportunity, one of NASA's most successful missions of all time.

"When I think of Opportunity, I will recall that place on Mars where our intrepid rover far exceeded everyone's expectations", Callas said. "But we want to remember the 14-and-a-half years of phenomenal exploration". It's the public that followed along with our every step.

Of course, the rover's mission wasn't about setting speed records. Together they landed on Mars the following year on a quest to determine the history of the water on the planet, NASA said on their website.

"I declare the Opportunity mission is complete", said NASA's Associate Administrator Thomas Zurbuchen during a press conference on Wednesday.

"And when that day arrives", Bridenstine continued, "some portion of that first footprint will be owned by the men and women of Opportunity, and a little rover that defied the odds and did so much in the name of exploration".

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