NASA's Mars rover pronounced dead: 'Farewell, Opportunity, and well done'

NASA's Mars rover pronounced dead: 'Farewell, Opportunity, and well done'

NASA and the European Space Agency will both be launching rovers to Mars in July, 2020, with the aim of finding past microbial life. But after 15 years on the Martian surface, the rover has officially been declared dead by NASA.

Engineers lost contact with the solar-powered vehicle on June 10 during a dust storm that encircled Mars. Opportunity's batteries went through more than 5,000 charging cycles, and were still capable of holding an 85 percent charge after more than 14 years of use. But even after the skies above it began to clear in early August, the rover slept on.

Callas said the last-ditch attempt to make contact the night before was a sad moment, with tears and a smattering of applause when the operations team signed off.

"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. Shortly afterwards, a planet-wide dust storm enveloped Perseverance Valley, stranding the rover. The rover always managed to stay just warm enough to power back up in the morning, though.

"I am standing here, with a sense of deep appreciation and gratitude, to declare the Opportunity mission as complete, and with it the Mars Exploration Rovers mission as complete", said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for science.

While some NASA spacecraft have endured for longer than 15 years, those are orbiter or flyby missions-they're not encountering the sheer number of hazards Opportunity did on the ground. "We would all love it if our cellphone batteries lasted this long", Callas said. Front and center is a flight spare of Sojourner, left is a working sibling to Spirit and Opportunity, right is test rover Curiosity.

Following a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #SaveOppy, NASA announced on October 29, 2018, that it would continue its active listening phase. NASA officials issued a final series of recovering commands on Tuesday, on top of 1,000 which have already been sent. Only a few minutes at the end of the hour-long event was devoted to media questions.

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The pair have had their share of incidents. It teetered close to the sand dunes, but didn't dare enter them for fear of getting stuck.

The rover has not been heard from since June past year when the storm blanketed the Red Planet, blocking sunlight and causing solar-powered Oppy to go into hibernation. "We were running around saying, "Water on Mars! It was a world that was more Earthlike".

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

Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, which has been out of contact for 8 months, failed to respond to NASA's final attempt to reach it last night.

The six-wheeled vehicle was built to operate just three months.

It may seem hard to believe given NASA's string of successful Mars missions, but the first successful rover didn't deploy until 1997. It will also collect samples for a future sample-return mission NASA hopes to launch.

Meanwhile, the Curiosity rover, which was unaffected by the storm, and the stationary InSight lander continue to study the Red Planet and carry on missions of discovery that were founded by Opportunity and Spirit.

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