NASA’s Opportunity rover dies on Mars

A heavy spacecraft would need rockets for braking and steering but could also be flown to steer itself through lift

A heavy spacecraft would need rockets for braking and steering but could also be flown to steer itself through lift

The robot has been missing since the U.S. space agency lost contact during a dust storm in June past year and was declared officially dead on Wednesday, ending one of the most fruitful missions in the history of space exploration.

Opportunity was created to operate for just 90 days on the martian surface but far outlived even the most ardent supporter's wildest expectations, roving 28 miles across the surface of Mars for more than 14 years.

Communication with Opportunity was lost on June 10 past year, when a planet-wide dust storm, one of the most intense in decades, hid its location.

"For more than a decade, Opportunity has been an icon in the field of planetary exploration, teaching us about Mars's ancient past as a wet, potentially habitable planet, and revealing uncharted Martian landscapes", associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate Thomas Zurbuchen said.

Global dust storms are not unusual on Mars, occurring every few years.

Its twin rover, Spirit, had landed three weeks earlier on the other side of the planet.

But a giant dust storm a year ago blocked sunlight from Mars, stopping Opportunity's solar-powered batteries from being able to recharge. According to the mission site, this was the team's "strategy of last resort".

NASA's InSight lander touched down last November, while the Curiosity rover has been exploring the Gale Crater for more than six years.

NASA received a ping from the rover on June 10th, 2018 as it waited in low-power mode. "It's a team sport, and that's what we're celebrating today", Zurbuchen said.

Though hard for those who worked on Opportunity - some for all 15 years or longer - the mission was declared a huge success.

United States space agency NASA is to hold a briefing today at UK time 7 pm, in which it is to officially announce the Mars Opportunity Rover mission "dead".

The community of researchers and engineers involved in the programme were in mourning over the passing of the rover, known affectionately as Oppy. Instead, the rover has persisted for 15 years, sending back incredible data and photos from Mars to help unravel the Red Planet's secrets. That valley will be Opportunity's eternal resting place.

"From the get-go, Opportunity delivered on our search for evidence regarding water", said Steve Squyres, principal investigator of the rovers' science payload at Cornell University. There was no response, and NASA is convening its leadership to deliver what appears to be a eulogy for its well-traveled robot Wednesday at 11 a.m. PT.

"We found.evidence that yes, there was liquid water", says Fraeman.

Also, this highlight reel from Opportunity's career quietly appeared online Tuesday with a description that includes an terrible lot of talk about the rover in the past tense. The reason for the loss of communication is due to a massive dust storm that blotted out the sky.

The programme has had an extraordinary record of success: 45.2km traversed, more than the Soviet Union's Lunokhod 2 moon rover during the 1970s and more than the rover that USA astronauts took to the moon on the Apollo 17 mission in 1972. "So that really confirmed one of these big questions about Mars' past". "It wouldn't know when to deep-sleep", Callas said, and that may have led the rover to keep the heater on and exhaust the last of its energy. This will determine Mars' subsurface temperature and thermal conductivity. It's the generation of young scientists and engineers who became space explorers with this mission. Two of them are still working: Curiosity (which landed in 2012) and InSight (which only landed recently).

And one day, NASA hopes rover tracks will be alongside human footprints on the Red Planet.

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