Science

Mars rover Opportunity dies after 15 years on planet

Mars rover Opportunity dies after 15 years on planet

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.

Indeed, Opportunity performed incredibly well for over a decade as it crawled across the Martian surface and conducted science on behalf of its handlers back on NASA.

After almost a decade and a half of adventure, the Opportunity's mission on the red planet has come to an end.

Over the last few months, while scientists continued to revive Opportunity, hopes were fairly high that communication would be reestablished.

NASA and the European Space Agency will both be launching rovers to Mars in July, 2020, with the aim of finding past microbial life.

Eleven years and two months after its landing on Mars, the total driving distance of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity surpassed the length of a marathon race: 26.219 miles (42.195 kilometers).

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.

The last communication from the rover was received 10 June. In fact, Opportunity weathered a major dust storm in 2006 with no problem.

You may be interested to know that Opportunity was powered by VxWorks on a 20MHz IBM RAD6000 CPU - a RISC Single Chip based on Big Blue's POWER1 architecture - with 128MB of RAM, 256MB of flash memory, and 3MB of EEPROM storage.




Opportunity's equipment may have been compromised by the storm, which struck while the rover was at a site called Perseverance Valley and blotted out sunlight needed by the robot's solar panels, officials said. "There really are hundreds and thousands of students just like me who witnessed these rovers, and followed along with the mission over the past 15 years, and because of that went to pursue science and education", Abigail Fraeman, Mars Exploration Rover deputy project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said at the press conference.

No, I'm not crying over a Mars rover, YOU'RE crying.

But Opportunity far exceeded its expected lifespan and durability and traversed more than 28 miles along the planet when scientists only intended for it to travel just over a thousand yards.

Associate NASA Administrator Thomas Zurbuchen began the event's commentary: "I stand here, surrounded by the team...it's an emotional time", he began. Other landers found only patchy evidence of the past life of Mars, but Opportunity unlocked ancient lake beds and truly uncanny evidence for a wet and warm past on the Red Planet. If this can't be done, then the rover will most likely stop working.

On Tuesday, InSight deployed its "mole," or heat flow probe, on the Martian surface, and in the coming weeks, it will be the first probe to go more than 16 feet below the surface. "What an incredible ride we've been able to be on, and I feel like most of it was borrowed time". "But we want to remember the 14-and-a-half years of phenomenal exploration".

"Farewell, Opportunity, and well done".

If the machine does not respond, Nasa will declare the rover dead.

InSight and the next Mars rover mission, scheduled for 2020, are both seen as precursors for eventual human exploration of Mars, an objective NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has said might be achieved as early as the mid-2030s.


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