Mars Opportunity Rover Mission is Complete

A heavy spacecraft would need rockets for braking and steering but could also be flown to steer itself through lift

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.

In addition to exceeding its life expectancy by 60 times, the rover travelled more than 28 miles by the time it reached its final resting spot on Mars - Perseverance Valley.

The agency will have made one final attempt to contact its Opportunity Rover late last night US time (Tuesday), eight months after the spacecraft last made contact.

Nasa wrote: 'The solar-powered rover last communicated with Earth on June 10, 2018, as a planet-wide dust storm was blanketing the Red Planet'.

"[Opportunity] has given us a larger world", Dr Callas said.

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. However, scientists were still unable to talk to the vehicle.

It landed on Mars' Meridiani Planum plain near its equator on January 25, 2004.

Both outlived and outperformed expectations, on opposite sides of Mars.

The six-wheeled vehicle was built to operate just three months. They rocketed from Cape Canaveral a month apart in 2003. Spirit was pronounced dead in 2011 a year after it got stuck in sand and communication ceased.

"This is a celebration of so many achievements", NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told team members gathered at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, for what amounted to a wake for the intrepid rover.

In the end, Opportunity set endurance and distance records that could stand for years, if not decades.

Engineers speculate the rover's internal clock may have become scrambled during the prolonged outage, disrupting the rover's sleep cycle and draining on-board batteries.

NASA's InSight lander is to place the heat flow probe on the Martian surface to take the temperature of the inside, according to the mission team.

"For more than a decade, Opportunity has been an icon in the field of planetary exploration, teaching us about Mars's ancient past as a wet, potentially habitable planet, and revealing uncharted Martian landscapes", associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate Thomas Zurbuchen said. The image was released in March 2004 (about two months after Opportunity arrived at the Red Planet) as part of the rover's "mission success" panorama. The rover is expected to land on Mars Feb. 18, 2021.



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