NASA Says Goodbye to Opportunity Rover After Months of Silence

by Fredrick Graves February 15, 2019, 2:01
NASA Says Goodbye to Opportunity Rover After Months of Silence

U.S. space agency NASA is to hold a briefing today at 7 pm GMT (2 pm ET), in which it is to officially announce the Mars Opportunity Rover mission "dead". That marked the start of a 90-day planned mission for the six-wheeled, golf cart-sized rover.

Eight months after losing contact with the Opportunity Mars rover during a record dust storm, NASA managers Wednesday reluctantly called it quits, officially bringing one of the agency's most successful projects to an end after an improbable 15-year mission that captured the imaginations of millions.

"Over the last eight months, NASA has sent over 835 commands to Opportunity to try to get it to wake up - they got no response", said Jim Greenhouse, Space Science Director at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science.

Rolling along until communication ceased last June, it roamed a record 28.06 miles on Mars and worked longer than any other lander in the known universe.

Opportunity, a remarkably durable NASA rover created to roll along the surface of Mars for three months, has stopped communicating with Earth after 15 years of service, officials said on Wednesday, ending a mission that astounded the USA space agency.

The JPL team tried using NASA's Deep Space Network and radio telescopes on Earth to communicate with Opportunity, but so far, contact has been unsuccessful.

"When I think of Opportunity, I will recall that place on Mars where our intrepid rover far exceeded everyone's expectations", Callas said. "When this little rover landed, the objective was to have it move 1100 yards and survive for 90 days", he exclaimed before reiterating the unexpected 15 years the mission eventually lasted.

This series of images shows simulated views of a darkening Martian sky, blotting out the sun, from the point of view of NASA's Opportunity rover. According to NASA's Mars map, the Curiosity and Opportunity sites are about 5,200 miles (8,400 km) apart from one another.

Margolis also shared what's believed to be Oppy's final message to crews back home before it lost contact in June.

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Steve Squyres, principal investigator of the rovers' science payload at Cornell University, praised Opportunity and its twin rover, Spirit, which lasted 2,210 Martian days, for detailing Mars' previously unknown past.

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

In 2021, the recently named Rosalind Franklin robot, part of the European-Russian ExoMars mission, is slated to land on a different part of the planet, raising the population of active rovers to two.

The team is grateful for the long mission but sad to say goodbye.

Created to last just 90 Martian days and travel 3,300 feet, Opportunity vastly surpassed all expectations in its endurance, scientific value and longevity.

Team members are already looking back at Opportunity's achievements, including confirmation water once flowed on Mars.

"I am standing here with a sense of deep appreciation and gratitude that I declare the opportunity mission as complete", he added.

"I can not think of a more appropriate place for Opportunity to endure on the surface of Mars than one called Perseverance Valley", Michael Watkins, director of JPL, said in a statement on Wednesday.

Opportunity touched down on Mars on January 25, 2004.

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