Mars Opportunity rover’s mission ends after 15 years


Spirit put 4.8 miles (7.7 kilometers) on its odometer before falling silent in the spring of 2010 - six years after its warranty expired. It's been suggested by some on the team that Curiosity may not ever get the same life span, and Mars 2020 (you can guess when NASA intends to launch it) is a lot like an upgraded Curiosity.

Engineers lost contact with the solar-powered vehicle on June 10 during a dust storm that encircled Mars. Opportunity's batteries went through more than 5,000 charging cycles, and were still capable of holding an 85 percent charge after more than 14 years of use.

This illustration made available by NASA shows the rover Opportunity on the surface of Mars.

Opportunity was able to visit Victoria and spend two years driving around it and inside it before moving on to Endeavour Crater and ending in Perseverance Valley. We have a rover on Mars!

Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said the agency is planning to send another rover to the red planet in 2020.

"Hail to the Queen of Mars", added Mike Seibert, Opportunity's former flight director and rover driver, in another tweet while Frank Hartman, who piloted Oppy, told AFP he felt "greatly honored to have been a small part of it". The other rover, Spirit, didn't last as long as Opportunity, which persisted several years longer.

"We have made every reasonable engineering effort to try to recover Opportunity and have determined that the likelihood of receiving a signal is far too low to continue recovery efforts", said John Callas, manager of the Mars Exploration Rover project at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Even though it's a machine and we're saying goodbye, it's very hard and very poignant".

NASA believes the June dust-storm blocked out so much sunlight that the rover could no longer change its batteries.

When Spirit had faced a similar fate in the past, the winds on Mars had cleared the solar panels.

After months of trying and more than 800 unanswered recovery commands, the Opportunity team officially declared the rover dead Wednesday.

Opportunity had an initial goal of covering 700 yards (640 meters) and operating for just 90 days on the surface of Mars.

The pair have had their share of incidents. But the rover got stuck in the dunes of windblown material on the Martian surface. And in the years before its demise, it had been forced to drive backward, when a wheel stopped working in 2006.

Opportunity landed on Mars on January 24, 2004 PST, just three weeks after its identical twin, Spirit, reached the Red Planet's surface.

The MER mission yielded scientists with a wealth of information, shedding light on the history of Mars. "It was a world that was more Earthlike".

The rovers used a variety of instruments in this quest, including three different spectrometers, a panoramic camera and the high-resolution Microscopic Imager, which delivered magnifying-glass-like views of Red Planet rock and dirt. On Wednesday, NASA confirmed that the mission is over.

Now it's up to Curiosity and the newly arrived InSight lander to carry on the legacy, he noted, along with spacecraft in orbit around Mars.