After 15 Years, NASA Officially Ends Opportunity Mission on Mars

Jan Cross
February 14, 2019

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

The six-wheeled vehicle that helped gather critical evidence that ancient Mars might have been hospitable to life was remarkably spry up until eight months ago, when it was finally doomed by a ferocious dust storm. RIP Oppy, you were the best rover that ever rovered.

NASA's Opportunity rover mission was one of the most successful and enduring feats of interplanetary exploration.

Opportunity landed on an huge plain, and spent half its life there, traversing flat expanses and once getting stuck in a sand dune for several weeks. Near its landing site in the Meridiani Planum region, Opportunity found "Martian blueberries" containing hematite, a mineral that forms in the presence of water.

Opportunity was easily the longest-lasting lander on Mars, despite being created to last just 90 days, and also set a roaming record of 45 kilometres before coming to rest, somewhat fittingly, in Perseverance Valley. That valley will be Opportunity's eternal resting place.

Scientists consider this the end of an era, now that Opportunity and Spirit are both gone.

Also, this highlight reel from Opportunity's career quietly appeared online Tuesday with a description that includes an very bad lot of talk about the rover in the past tense.

Nasa's Opportunity on Mars was to search for clues about the history of water. Steve Squyres, a professor at Cornell University in the USA studying the history of water on the Red Planet, called Mars a "dry, desolate world".

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"With a mobile vehicle - a vehicle able to climb mountains and descend into craters and see these gorgeous, spectacular vistas - it really changes Mars into a place that seems like a real destination", Squyres told Space.com.

This is the last image the panoramic camera captured before the rover communicated to engineers that its power was running low and that the dusty conditions were making things quite dark. "It wouldn't know when to deep-sleep", Callas said, and that may have led the rover to keep the heater on and exhaust the last of its energy. And aside from a few major storms that got in the way, the rover never stopped returning science data.

On Tuesday, InSight deployed its "mole," or heat flow probe, on the Martian surface, and in the coming weeks, it will be the first probe to go more than 16 feet below the surface.

"I learned this morning that we had not heard back". The rover's batteries were in good health prior to the dust storm, and the surface temperature was relatively warm when the storm began. It's the generation of young scientists and engineers who became space explorers with this mission.

InSight landed safely on Mars on November 26, kicking off a two-year mission to explore the deep interior of the Red Planet.

Now it is up to Curiosity and the InSight lander to carry on the legacy, Mr Callas said, along with spacecraft in orbit around Mars.

If the machine does not respond, Nasa will declare the rover dead. Mars 2020 and a potential orbiter mission are in the works. "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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