Published: Wed, February 13, 2019
Research | By Raquel Erickson

NASA to speak today on the fate of Mars Opportunity Rover

NASA to speak today on the fate of Mars Opportunity Rover

Flight controllers tried numerous times to make contact and sent one final series of recovery commands Tuesday night along with one last wake-up song, Billie Holiday's "I'll Be Seeing You".

Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said: "For more than a decade, Opportunity has been an icon in the field of planetary exploration, teaching us about Mars' ancient past as a wet, potentially habitable planet, and revealing uncharted Martian landscapes". On Sept. 20, the HiRISE high-resolution camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured an image of the rover in Mars' Perseverance Valley.

Nasa's Opportunity on Mars was to search for clues about the history of water.

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.

However Opportunity lasted a lot longer than this - 15 years - and set a roaming record of 28 miles (45km).

Since September, the team at NASA has been using a "sweep and beep" process to try to contact the robot, which involves sending commands to the rover, and waiting to hear a beep back.

Its identical twin, Spirit, was pronounced dead in 2011, a year after it got stuck in sand and communication ceased. They rocketed from Cape Canaveral a month apart in 2003.

It may be time to finally say goodbye to the Opportunity rover.

The manager of the project, John Callas, described the decay of the machine as like "a loved one who's gone missing". It was 2004, and Fraeman was visiting NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena as part of an outreach event.

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".

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.

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

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

Now it is up to Curiosity and the newly arrived InSight lander to carry on the legacy, Mr Callas said, along with spacecraft in orbit around Mars. "Mars is now part of our neighborhood".

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