Mars rover: Rover bites the dust on Mars, ending 15-year mission

14 February, 2019, 02:49 | Author: Tara Reeves
  • Opportunity

Today in a press conference at 11 A.M. PST, NASA announced the completion of the Mars Exploration Rover mission.

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

"With a mobile vehicle - a vehicle able to climb mountains and descend into craters and see these gorgeous, spectacular vistas - it really changes Mars into a place that seems like a real destination", Squyres told Space.com.

Trundling along at five centimetres per second (0.1 miles per hour), Opportunity covered 28 miles of Martian ground in its time, and took a peek at numerous Red Planet's impact craters. 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".

Ths colorized image of the Opportunity rover's shadow was taken on July 26, 2004, by the rover's front hazard-avoidance camera as it moved farther into Endurance Crater in the Meridiani Planum region of Mars.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said such robotic missions will set the stage for human missions to the Red Planet. The golf cart-size rovers were created to operate as geologists for just three months, after bouncing onto our planetary neighbor inside cushioning air bags in January 2004. That's the place that they were created to go. According to the mission site, this was the team's "strategy of last resort". Rolling along until communication ceased last June, Opportunity roamed a record 28 miles around Mars and worked longer than any other lander. All the dust in the air prevented sunlight from reaching Opportunity's solar panels, and the robot was unable to recharge its batteries. The last signal received from the $400 million solar-powered rover was on June 10, 2018.

The storm eventually enshrouded all of Mars.

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

NASA has finally plugged the plug on its Mars Opportunity rover, which has been silent on the Red Planet's surface for eight months. The rover ends its mission with several unmatched feats.

Squyres, you may be surprised to hear, isn't sad about the news.

"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".

Opportunity and its long-dead twin rover, Spirit, found evidence that ancient Mars had water flowing on its surface and might have been capable of sustaining microbial life. Only two remain working: the nuclear-powered Curiosity rover, prowling around since 2012, and the recently arrived InSight, which just this week placed a heat-sensing, self-hammering probe on the dusty red surface to burrow deep into the planet like a mole.

So there are many aspects to the MER legacy - for example, making Mars a semifamiliar place, revealing secrets about the planet's possibly life-supporting past, and developing the engineering know-how to keep robots alive and productive on a frigid, radiation-blasted planet for years and years.

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.

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