April 22, 2019

Well, that’s a wrap for NASA’s Opportunity rover

14 February 2019, 06:54 | Dale Webster

An illustration made available by NASA shows the rover Opportunity on the surface of Mars Credit NASA

An illustration made available by NASA shows the rover Opportunity on the surface of Mars

A false-color view showing layered terrain in the rim of Victoria Crater as seen by Opportunity's cameras.

Opportunity exemplified this mobility, travelling over 45km across the Martian surface.

Emotions were high during NASA's mission end announcement. That was the last time the team had any communication with Opportunity. This will mark the end of a almost 15-year mission on Mars for the rover. The car-size Curiosity rover has been characterizing possibly habitable environments inside Mars' 96-mile-wide (154 km) Gale Crater since August 2012, and NASA plans to launch the life-hunting Mars 2020 rover next year.

Opportunity was able to visit Victoria and spend two years driving around it and inside it before moving on to Endeavour Crater and ending in Perseverance Valley. There was no response, and NASA is convening its leadership to deliver what appears to be a eulogy for its well-traveled robot Wednesday at 11 a.m. PT.

NASA is expected to share its update on the final effort to recover Opportunity shortly after they attempt to make contact again, as Oppy's fans around the world cross their fingers and look up to the skies in the hopes the rover will finally phone home again.

During 14 years of intrepid exploration across Mars it advanced human knowledge by confirming that water once flowed on the red planet - but NASA's Opportunity rover has analyzed its last soil sample.

Artist's illustration of NASA's Opportunity rover, which landed on Mars in January 2004 with the aid of a parachute and airbags.

Bridenstine said the overriding goal is to search for evidence of past or even present microbial life at Mars and find suitable locations to send astronauts, perhaps in the 2030s.

The rover has been silent for eight months, victim of one of the most intense dust storms in decades.

Both rovers found plenty of evidence that Mars was relatively warm and wet long ago, with environments that could well have supported life as we know it. Spirit, for example, rolled through an ancient hydrothermal system, revealing that at least some parts of Mars also featured energy sources that ancient organisms could have exploited.

Spirit and Opportunity landed a few weeks apart, in different Red Planet locales. "But what I suppose I'll cherish most is the impact Opportunity had on us here on Earth".

"When I think of Opportunity, I will recall that place on Mars where our intrepid rover far exceeded everyone's expectations", Callas said. It's the accomplished exploration and phenomenal discoveries.

The nostalgia extended across the generations of scientists who have handled the plucky little adventurer. It's the public that followed along with our every step.

Mission team members have been trying to rouse the rover since June and listening for any possible signals.

That paradigm is having a robotic rover that not only takes images of a planet, but one that can also function as a planetary geologist, with the ability to drill, take samples and more.

It is because of trailblazing missions such as Opportunity that there will come a day when our courageous astronauts walk on the surface of Mars.

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