NASA will formally abandon Mars Opportunity mission

Gwen Vasquez
February 14, 2019

Created to last only three months, and travel only 1000 metres, Opportunity provided scientists a close-up view of Mars that they had never seen. "Also, if you had the opportunity to bring 180 kilograms of stuff back from the surface of Mars, the last thing I'd want to bring is something where I know exactly what it's made of".

NASA's InSight lander is to place the heat flow probe on the Martian surface to take the temperature of the inside, according to the mission team.

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

"Hail to the Queen of Mars", added Mike Seibert, Opportunity's former flight director and rover driver, in another tweet while Frank Hartman, who piloted Oppy, told AFP he felt "greatly honored to have been a small part of it".

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).

Communication with Opportunity was finally lost in June 2018, and as rugged as the vehicle was, it was no match for the severe dust storm it encountered. All the dust in the air prevented sunlight from reaching Opportunity's solar panels, and the robot was unable to recharge its batteries.

On July 7, 2003, NASA launched Opportunity. Dust has blocked out sunlight, and even the expected winds from November through January haven't helped clear Opportunity's sensors and panels.

It was built in just 90 days but went on to live for 14 years.

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The rover sent back images of former water reserves, providing signs that ancient life could have once existed on Mars.

Pathfinder included a little rover called Sojourner, but that microwave-oven-size robot traveled a total of just 330 feet (100 meters) during its pioneering operational life.

During the second part of its life on Mars, Opportunity climbed to the edge of the crater Endeavour, taking spectacular panoramic images - and discovering veins of gypsum, additional proof that water once flowed among the Martian rocks. After that period, they were planning to go into a "passive listening" mode, where they would stop sending signals and just monitor the rover's signals to see if it was calling home. Its twin rover, Spirit, had landed three weeks earlier on the other side of the planet.

InSight also shared a fond farewell to Opportunity on Twitter.

From the beginning, Opportunity exceeded expectations and set records.

"For the public the big change was that Mars became a dynamic place, and it was a place that you could explore every day", Emily Lakdawalla, an expert on space exploration and senior editor at The Planetary Society. And it's the technical legacy of the Mars Exploration Rovers, which is carried aboard Curiosity and the upcoming Mars 2020 mission.

NASA has vowed to send people to Mars by 2030, but experts say it could take at least 25 years from now before humans could survive on the planet.

Agency science chief Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, Opportunity project manager John Callas and mission principal investigator Steve Squyres will all feature in the press conference later today.

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