Published: Wed, February 13, 2019
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NASA to make final attempt to contact Mars Opportunity Rover

NASA to make final attempt to contact Mars Opportunity Rover

But a giant dust storm past year blocked sunlight from Mars, stopping Opportunity's solar-powered batteries from being able to recharge. NASA officials issued a final series of recovering commands on Tuesday, on top of 1,000 which have already been sent.

"I am standing here with a sense of deep appreciation and gratitude, [as] I declare the Opportunity mission as complete, and with it the Mars Exploration rover's mission as complete", said Thomas Zurbuchen, an associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, during a livestream of the announcement.

When did Opportunity fall silent?

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'.

Flight controllers tried to awaken the rover, devising and sending command after command for months. The storm was so intense that it darkened the sky for months, preventing sunlight from reaching the rover's solar panels. Now it's getting colder and darker at Mars, further dimming prospects.

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

Opportunity sent back 217,594 images from Mars, all of which were made available on the internet.

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.

Remarkably spry until communication ceased last June, Opportunity roamed a record 28 miles (45 kilometres) around Mars.

"Whatever loss we feel now must be tempered with the knowledge that the legacy of Opportunity continues - both on the surface of Mars with the Curiosity rover and InSight lander - and in the clean rooms of JPL, where the upcoming Mars 2020 rover is taking shape".


The six-wheeled vehicle was built to operate just three months.

They were rocketed from Cape Canaveral a month apart in 2003.

It's no easier saying goodbye now to Opportunity, than it was to Spirit, project manager John Callas told The Associated Press.

"But each passing day that diminishes, and at some point you have to say enough and move on with your life."

Deputy project scientist Abigail Fraeman said, "It gives you an idea just how long this mission has lasted".

Global dust storms tend to happen every few years and "we had gone a long time without one".

Unlike NASA's nuclear-powered Curiosity rover, which is still chugging along on Mars, Opportunity and Spirit were never created to endure such severe weather.

The lead scientist on the Opportunity project, Cornell University's Steve Squyres, believes the rover has had "an honourable death".

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. "Mars is now part of our neighborhood".

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