NASA to make final attempt to contact Mars Opportunity Rover

13 February, 2019, 23:23 | Author: Darnell Taylor
  • Science										
		
																	This dune-covered volcanic rock bed is one of the coolest places on Mars					
								
			
	
		Mike Wehner

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 agency will have made one final attempt to contact its Opportunity Rover late last night U.S. time (Tuesday), eight months after the spacecraft last made contact. There was no response from space, only silence.

NASA's Opportunity rover mission was one of the most successful and enduring feats of interplanetary exploration. "This is an emotional time".

The golf cart-size Opportunity outlived its twin, the Spirit rover, by several years.

Opportunity was created to last only 90 Martian days and travel 1,100 yards.

However Opportunity lasted a lot longer than this - 15 years - and set a roaming record of 28 miles (45km).

Opportunity was a robotic geologist, equipped with cameras and instruments at the end of a robotic arm for grinding away layers, taking microscopic images and analyzing the composition of the rocks and soil.

The rovers' greatest gift, according to Squyres, was providing a geologic record at two distinct places where water once flowed on Mars, and describing the conditions there that may have supported possible ancient life.

But a giant dust storm past year blocked sunlight from Mars, stopping Opportunity's solar-powered batteries from being able to recharge.

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The swirling maelstrom may have dumped dust onto the solar panels which power the rover, meaning it can not recharge its battery to make contact with mission control back on Earth.

Since the storm, Nasa has tried to contact the machine through recovery commands 1,000 times.

With project costs reaching about $500,000 a month, NASA decided there was no point in continuing.

"It's just like a loved one who's gone missing, and you keep holding out hope that they will show up and that they're healthy", he said.

Since then, ground control has been unable to make contact with the 'droid. He said the team members didn't even bother waiting around to even see if word came back from space - they knew it was hopeless.

The lead scientist on the Opportunity project, Cornell University's Steve Squyres, believes the rover has had "an honourable death".

NASA's Opportunity rover never found life on Mars, but in a photo of Meridiani Planum, it did find a mysterious object that looks like a long-eared bunny rabbit.

Launched on May 5, InSight marks NASA's first landing on Mars since the Curiosity rover in 2012 and the first dedicated to studying the deep interior of the red planet.

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