NASA's Opportunity Rover Declared Dead After Record-Breaking 15 Years on Mars

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

Opportunities' confirmed death comes almost eight months after it vanished in a dust storm that clouded its solar panels, placing it in hibernation mode, NASA had said.

NASA announced yesterday that the team would be putting in its final efforts to contact the rover last night, and would announce the results today.

"Over the last eight months, NASA has sent over 835 commands to Opportunity to try to get it to wake up - they got no response", said Jim Greenhouse, Space Science Director at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science.

"What I'm looking forward to in the museum, the artifact that I most want, is something from one of the Mars rovers that one of the first crews on Mars has been able to bring back to Earth", she said. Rolling along until communication ceased last June, Opportunity roamed a record 28 miles around Mars and worked longer than any other lander. "When this little rover landed, the objective was to have it move 1100 yards and survive for 90 days", he exclaimed before reiterating the unexpected 15 years the mission eventually lasted.

NASA's InSight lander touched down last November, while the Curiosity rover has been exploring the Gale Crater for more than six years.

Opportunity landed on an vast plain and spent half its life there, traversing flat expanses and once getting stuck in a sand dune for several weeks.




When the dust cloud cleared, there was no word from Opportunity.

"When Opportunity landed back in 2004, I was actually in high school", said MER deputy project scientist Abigail Fraeman, "I was a high school junior, but I had the awesome opportunity to come to JPL and actually be here when the rovers landed". "And when you combine the discoveries of Opportunity and Spirit, they showed us that ancient Mars was a very different place from Mars today, which is a cold, dry, desolate world". The team held out hope that the windy season on Mars might blow accumulated dust from the arrays and permit battery charging, but after a final round of commands Tuesday night, "we heard nothing", Callas said.

If this truly is the end, "Oppy", as the rover is affectionately known, has well outlasted her original 90-day mission. Jennifer Trosper, who served as project systems engineer for the Mars Exploration Rover mission and is playing a similar role in the 2020 Mars rover mission, suggested that future explorers might bring Opportunity and Rover back to Earth.

Bridenstine said the overriding goal is to search for evidence of past or even present microbial life on Mars and find possible locations to send astronauts - perhaps in the 2030s. And it discovered evidence of water once existing on Mars, including finding a water-forming mineral called hematite and indications of ancient water in a crater, NASA said.

The announcement comes only days after Opportunity celebrated its 15th anniversary on Mars. The mission began in the Eagle crater, and after studying nearby craters, the scientists made a decision to take a long journey to the much larger Endeavour crater.

Artist's illustration of NASA's Opportunity rover, which landed on Mars in January 2004 with the aid of a parachute and airbags. Also, its programming was designed with "fault modes" allowing actions to be taken automatically to maintain the rover's health.

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