The end has finally come for NASA's Opportunity Mars rover

Federico Mansilla
Febrero 13, 2019

NASA will hold a briefing at 2pm EST today on the status of its Mars Opportunity Rover, which has been out of communication since June 10, 2018, when dust storms enveloped the planet.

The manager of the project, John Callas, described the decay of the machine as like "a loved one who's gone missing".

NASA shows the tool turret at the end of the the Opportunity rover's robotic arm on the southern side of "Marathon Valley", which goes through the western rim of Endeavour Crater on January 5, 2016.

Deputy project scientist Abigail Fraeman was a 16-year-old high school student when Opportunity landed on Mars. Inspired, Fraeman went on to become a planetary scientist, joined NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and ended up deputy project scientist for Opportunity.

"It gives you an idea just how long this mission has lasted", she said. Global dust storms typically kick up every few years, and "we had gone a long time without one".

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NASA's nuclear-powered Curiosity rover was created to endure severe weather but Opportunity and Spirit were not so the mere fact they lasted so long is testament of the durability of the models. Engineers tried different things to revive Opportunity, from sending repeated signals and commands to attempt to fix other potential issues. Now it's getting colder and darker at Mars, further dimming prospects.

"You could have lost a lot of money over the years betting against Opportunity", Squyres told the AP Tuesday. Opportunity's mission has led to many discoveries about the Red Planet, but perhaps the most exciting was when Opportunity found evidence that Mars once had water and supported conditions for sustaining microbial life.

Nasa believes the device's lengthy outing will have scrambled its clock, which will have drained the rover's batteries. It's especially frustrating, according to Callas, not knowing precisely why Opportunity-or Spirit-failed.

A new rover, named InSight, has already arrived on the planet to continue the rover's legacy.

The scientist said the machine "has given us a larger world". "Mars is now part of our neighborhood".

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