NASA to speak today on the fate of Mars Opportunity Rover

Opportunity

Opportunity

It looks like Mars rover Opportunity has finally reached its end after 15 years on the red planet.

Both outlived and outperformed expectations, on opposite sides of Mars.

Despite NASA engineers' best efforts to get a response via radio channels, its last communication was on June 10, 2018 after more than 600 attempts since August.

Flight controllers tried to awaken the rover, devising and sending command after command for months.

The golf cart sized rovers were created to operate as geologists for just three months, after bouncing onto our planetary neighbour inside cushioning air bags in January 2004. They rocketed from Cape Canaveral a month apart in 2003.

It is no easier saying goodbye now to Opportunity, than it was to Spirit, project manager John Callas said.

Nasa believes the device's lengthy outing will have scrambled its clock, which will have drained the rover's batteries.

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

She was inside the control centre as part of an outreach program. Inspired, Fraeman went on to become a planetary scientist, joined NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and ended up deputy project scientist for Opportunity.

Deputy project scientist Abigail Fraeman said, "It gives you an idea just how long this mission has lasted".

Rather than viewing the dust storm as bad luck, Callas considers it "good luck that we skirted so many possible storms' over the years".

Mission scientists have been trying to rouse the rover since dust storms subsided in October, but have been unsuccessful so far.

"You could have lost a lot of money over the years betting against Opportunity", said the professor.

Opportunity and its long-dead twin rover, Spirit, found evidence that ancient Mars had water flowing on its surface and might have been capable of sustaining microbial life.

As for Opportunity: "It has given us a larger world", Dr Callas said.

"Mars is now part of our neighbourhood", he added.

A new rover, named InSight, has already arrived on the planet to continue the rover's legacy.

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