Sci-tech

JPL Says RIP To The Mars Rover

JPL Says RIP To The Mars Rover

NASA has declared the Mars rover Opportunity dead after 15 years on the red planet, and more than eight months after its last communication with Earth.

Opportunity was easily the longest-lasting lander on Mars, despite being created to last just 90 days, and also set a roaming record of 45 kilometres before coming to rest, somewhat fittingly, in Perseverance Valley.

The rover reached Mars in 2004, but NASA lost contact with the vehicle past year following an epic dust storm that enveloped the red planet and prevented sunlight from reaching its surface.

"For more than a decade, Opportunity has been an icon in the field of planetary exploration, teaching us about Mars' ancient past as a wet, potentially habitable planet, and revealing uncharted Martian landscapes", Zurbuchen said. This map shows the southward path driven by Opportunity from late December 2014 until it passed marathon distance on March 24, 2015, during the 3,968th Martian day, or sol, of the rover's work on Mars. It also started the clock on a 45-day period that NASA believed would be the best window of time for getting a response from the rover.

"Larry was the planning lead for the missions, so he actually figured out where the rover was going to go", said Greenhouse.

The same thing happened when Opportunity's twin, Spirit, became mired in soft soil in 2009 and its five working wheels couldn't free it. NASA held a "service" to commemorate the end of the mission in May 2011.

After more than a thousand commands to restore contact, engineersat NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) made their last attempt to revive Opportunity on Tuesday, to no avail.

Both rovers were only intended for 90-day missions.

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It stumbled upon the first meteorite found on another planet, revealing that Meridiani Planum was once immersed in water, studied more than 100 impact craters and sent home stunning panoramas of a planet nearly 34 million miles from Earth. Spirit, too, lasted much longer than planned, finally going dim forever in 2010 after a sand trap crippled the machine, limiting its ability to reorient and receive adequate sunlight to power itself.

The Opportunity rover's legacy is firmly in place as the Mars InSight lander, which touched down on Mars last fall, is now beginning its research as the Curiosity rover continues to explore Mars' Gale Crater. 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.

Opportunity was created to last only 90 Martian days and travel 1,100 yards. In its stunning 14-plus years of travel, enabled by Martian winds that periodically cleaned off its solar panels, it has covered an impressive 28 miles (40 kilometers) on the planet.

In addition to its unprecedented lifespan, Opportunity provided the world with valuable geological information about Mars.

Nasa's Opportunity on Mars.

Opportunity touched down on Mars on January 25, 2004.

"Our beloved Opportunity remained silent", Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said in today's press conference.

The rover sent back images of former water reserves, providing signs that ancient life could have once existed on Mars. It was there, using geological instruments, that it confirmed that liquid water was once present on Mars.