NASA to make final attempt to contact Mars Opportunity Rover

Olive Hawkins
February 13, 2019

NASA is preparing to say goodbye to their beloved Mars rover Opportunity, which appears to have reached the end of its long exploratory life on the red planet. 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 made its last planned attempts to communicate with Opportunity late on Tuesday, but did not receive any response back. With dust covering its solar panels, Opportunity went silent.

Since the storm, Nasa has tried to contact the machine through recovery commands 1,000 times.

Nasa's Opportunity on Mars was to search for clues about the history of water. Rolling along until communication ceased last June, Opportunity roamed a record 28 miles around Mars and worked longer than any other lander.

Both outlived and outperformed expectations, on opposite sides of Mars. The golf-cart-sized rovers were created to operate as geologists for just three months, after bouncing onto our planetary neighbor inside cushioning airbags. They rocketed from Cape Canaveral a month apart in 2003.

"And when that day arrives, some portion of that first footprint will be owned by the men and women of Opportunity, and a little rover that defied the odds and did so much in the name of exploration".

The manager of the project, John Callas, described the decay of the machine as like "a loved one who's gone missing".

She was inside the control centre as part of an outreach program.

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The experience inspired her to pursue a career at JPL; Fraeman is now a deputy project scientist on the Mars exploration rover project, and works with Opportunity nearly daily.

"Opportunity's just been a workhorse ... it's really a testament, I think, to how well the mission was designed and how careful the team was in operating the vehicle".

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

Opportunity and Spirit were built to last 90 days, but Opportunity far exceeded that number, roving for almost 15 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.

In November 2018 NASA announced that it has selected the location where its Mars 2020 rover will land on the Red Planet.

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