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After 15 Years, NASA Officially Ends Opportunity Mission on Mars

15 Février 2019

It transformed our understanding of our planet.

"Mars is now part of our neighbourhood".

Ths colorized image of the Opportunity rover's shadow was taken on July 26, 2004, by the rover's front hazard-avoidance camera as it moved farther into Endurance Crater in the Meridiani Planum region of Mars.

Created to last only about 90 Martian days and travel only 1,100 yards on the Red Planet, the Opportunity rover went on to explore Earth's dusty neighbor for over 14 years, zig-zagging almost 30 miles across the planet.

During its 15 years on Mars, the rover was tasked with solving a mystery about the planet - namely, whether it had liquid water, which could mean life.

The same thing happened when Opportunity's twin, Spirit, became mired in soft soil in 2009 and its five working wheels couldn't free it. NASA held a "service" to commemorate the end of the mission in May 2011. After months of trying to make contact with Opportunity following a planet-wide dust storm, NASA is calling it quits. The rover could no longer charge its solar-powered batteries and went into hibernation.

After 10 years on Mars, Opportunity accumulated a thick coat of red dust, as seen in the self-portrait on the left in early January 2014.

Opportunity was spotted by NASA's Reconnaissance Orbiter on the Red Planet's Perseverance Valley in September, igniting what would be a fruitless recovery attempt. But this time, the storm was worse and the opacity of the atmosphere climbed to unprecedented levels.

Margolis also shared what's believed to be Oppy's final message to crews back home before it lost contact in June. The rover always managed to stay just warm enough to power back up in the morning, though.

John Callas, manager of the MER project, said in a statement that "we have made every reasonable engineering effort to try to recover Opportunity and have determined that the likelihood of receiving a signal is far too low to continue recovery efforts". Without battery power, the rover was unable to keep its heaters running to protect its components from frigid temperatures during the night. He added: "It comes time to say goodbye". It was supposed to last for 90 here we are 15 years later.

In addition to exceeding its life expectancy by 60 times, the robot trekked more than 28 miles, or roughly 45 times its planned goal.

The Curiosity rover has been exploring the planet since it landed there in 2012, and past year sent back 16 pictures of the planet that scientists were put together to create a panoramic view of what Mars looks like.

Nasa's Opportunity on Mars was to search for clues about the history of water. Three of those are in orbit around the planet.

After falling silent eight months ago during a severe dust storm that swept across the Red Planet, NASA's Mars Opportunity rover has been officially declared dead. "Now she can rest, beneath a thin layer of dust, knowing she did humanity proud", Tanya Harrison, director of research for the Space Technology and Science Initiative at Arizona State University and science team collaborator on Opportunity, told Astronomy.

After 15 Years, NASA Officially Ends Opportunity Mission on Mars