Mars Opportunity rover is dead, NASA confirms

Katie Ramirez
February 13, 2019

But all that came to an end on Wednesday, when NASA announced that Opportunity did not respond to their final attempts to contact it.

"I am standing here with a sense of deep appreciation and gratitude, [as] I declare the Opportunity mission as complete, and with it the Mars Exploration rover's mission as complete", said Thomas Zurbuchen, an associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, during a livestream of the announcement. The golf cart-size rovers were created to operate as geologists for just three months, after bouncing onto our planetary neighbor inside cushioning air bags in January 2004.

U.S. space agency NASA will make one final attempt to contact its Opportunity Rover on Mars late Tuesday, eight months after it last made contact. "I have to tell you, this is an emotional time", he added.

Opportunity set records on the Red Planet.

Opportunity landed on Mars in 2004 and covered 28 miles (45 kilometers) on the planet, securing its place in history after lasting well beyond its expected 90-day mission.

Opportunity was the fifth of eight spacecraft to successfully land on Mars so far, all belonging to NASA.

"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.

"But each passing day that diminishes, and at some point you have to say "enough" and move on with your life".

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He noted Georgia coach Tom Crean's relationship with two National Basketball Association stars as a factor in his decision. The shooting guard visited both Georgia and Kentucky but never accepted an invitation to visit Kansas and North Carolina .

Opportunity was first sent to collect data about the planet Mars alongside fellow rover Spirit, which concluded its mission in 2010.

Callas believes it is "good luck that we skirted so many possible storms" over the years.

Opportunity, NASA's longest-running Mars rover, outlived its twin rover, Spirit, which went silent in 2010 after getting stuck in a sand trap and running out of power. The storm was so intense that it darkened the sky for months, preventing sunlight from reaching the rover's solar panels.

The last signal received from the $400 million solar-powered rover was on June 10, 2018. Unlike NASA's nuclear-powered Curiosity rover still chugging along on Mars, Opportunity and Spirit were never created to endure such severe weather.

Cornell University's Steve Squyres, lead scientist for both Opportunity and Spirit, considers succumbing to a ferocious storm an "honourable way" for the mission to end.

The storm may have scrambled the rover's internal clock, NASA explained on Wednesday, meaning that the rover would not know when to sleep, wake up, or receive commands.

The scientist said the machine "has given us a larger world".

"Mars is now part of our neighbourhood".

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