Nasa sends final farewell message as Mars rover is declared 'dead'

Feb 15, 2019, 02:00
Nasa sends final farewell message as Mars rover is declared 'dead'

Nasa administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted: 'After more than 800 attempts to contact the Mars Rover Opportunity, today we're announcing the end of a successful Martian mission.

The golf-cart-sized rover was only ever created to operate on Mars for 90 Martian days. "Whatever loss we feel now must be tempered with the knowledge that the legacy of Opportunity continues, both on the surface of Mars with the Curiosity rover and InSight lander and in the clean rooms of [NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory], where the upcoming Mars 2020 rover is taking shape".

The news follows months of unsuccessful attempts to make contact with the rover after it lost power in a global dust storm last summer.

The agency will have made one final attempt to contact its Opportunity Rover late last night US time (Tuesday), eight months after the spacecraft last made contact. Rolling along until communication ceased last June, Opportunity roamed a record 28 miles around Mars and worked longer than any other lander.

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Opportunity was created to operate for just 90 days on the martian surface but far outlived even the most ardent supporter's wildest expectations, roving 28 miles across the surface of Mars for more than 14 years. 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.

"When I think of Opportunity, I will recall that place on Mars where our intrepid rover far exceeded everyone's expectations", Callas said.

Opportunity, along with its sister robot, Spirit, landed on Mars in 2004, for a mission that was initially expected to last 90 Martian days.

This illustration made available by NASA shows the rover Opportunity on the surface of Mars. 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. If there's no response by Wednesday - which NASA suspects will be the case - Opportunity will be declared dead, 15 years after arriving at the red planet. "I heard this morning that we had not heard back", said Zurbuchen, explaining that the "beloved" rover remains silent.

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Project scientist Matthew Golombek said these rover missions are meant to help answer an "almost theological" question: Does life form wherever conditions are just right, or "are we really, really lucky?"

Opportunity outlived its life span by well over a decade and was part of a two-rover mission that launched in summer 2003.

"If life ever did come to be on Mars, there ought to be evidence of it there", said Lori Glaze, acting director of NASA's Planetary Science Division. The rover's final resting location was a spot named Perseverance Valley.

The rover was as only created to survive for 90 days on the surface of Mars but kept on trundling for 15 years.

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Opportunity landed on Mars on January 25, 2004, bouncing across the surface in an inflatable airbag. The Washington Post quotes Squyres as saying that Mars "is a cold and desolate world today, but in the distant past, in the time that the rocks explored by Spirit and Opportunity were formed, it was a very different world".