Published: Thu, February 14, 2019
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

NASA's Mars rover pronounced dead: 'Farewell, Opportunity, and well done'

NASA's Mars rover pronounced dead: 'Farewell, Opportunity, and well done'

Neither rover was created to endure extreme weather - unlike Nasa's nuclear-powered Curiosity rover, which continues to trawl Mars for information.

In addition to its unprecedented lifespan, Opportunity provided the world with valuable geological information about Mars. The rover ends its mission with several unmatched feats. He added: "It comes time to say goodbye". "It is therefore that I'm standing here, with a sense of deep appreciation and gratitude, that I declare the Opportunity mission as complete, and with it, the Mars Exploration Rover mission as complete".

Opportunity was exploring Mars' Perseverance Valley, fittingly, when the fiercest dust storm in decades hit and contact was lost. He also described the quality of Opportunity's batteries and the seasonal reliability of the Martian winds to clean its solar panels as part of the reasons it lasted as long as it did.

Despite NASA engineers' best efforts to get a response via radio channels, its last communication was on June 10, 2018 after more than 600 attempts since August. The robot was originally created to last just 90 days, and was built to travel just over 1,000 yards.

The programme's end was emotionally hard for many at the facility, from which rover operations are conducted.

NASA also operates two spacecraft on the surface of the red planet: the nuclear-powered Mars Curiosity rover, now in its seventh year of operation, and the stationary InSight lander, which touched down late last year. Steve Squyres, a professor at Cornell University in the United States studying the history of water on the Red Planet, called Mars a "dry, desolate world".

During the second part of its life on Mars, Opportunity climbed to the edge of the crater Endeavour, taking spectacular panoramic images - and discovering veins of gypsum, additional proof that water once flowed among the Martian rocks.

On Wednesday, Opportunity's team bid her farewell while looking to the foundations the mission laid. "I feel great about this", he said, stressing that both Spirit and Opportunity died honorable deaths after doing far more than was expected of them.

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"When I think of Opportunity, I will recall that place on Mars where our intrepid rover far exceeded everyone's expectations", Callas said.

And Oppy's discoveries will guide the future of Martian exploration.

Despite the windy season sweeping over the planet, which scientists hoped would clear the solar-powered rover, engineers have not been able to attempt a recovery mission with zero contact.

"For the public the big change was that Mars became a dynamic place, and it was a place that you could explore every day", Emily Lakdawalla, an expert on space exploration and senior editor at The Planetary Society.

Of course, the rover's mission wasn't about setting speed records.

"Farewell, Opportunity, and well done".

Agency science chief Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, Opportunity project manager John Callas and mission principal investigator Steve Squyres will all feature in the press conference later today. "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".

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