NASA rover finally bites the dust on Mars after 15 years

Opportunity

NASA about to pull plug on Mars rover Opportunity after it was silenced by immense dust storm

After an intense storm hit the rover last June, Opportunity went silent and we haven't heard a peep back since. NASA will hold a press conference at 2 p.m. ET today to discuss the results of recovery efforts since a dust storm encircled Mars past year.

NASA has vowed to send people to Mars by the 2030s, but industry experts say it could take longer - at least 25 years from now - before humans could survive on the Red Planet.

One of the rear hazard-avoidance cameras on NASA's Opportunity rover on February 5, 2004.

One of Opportunity's biggest achievements was identifying water once flowed on the red planet.

Opportunity and Spirit launched in 2003 and landed on Mars in 2004, searching for signs of ancient life. Besides endurance, the six-wheeled rover set a roaming record of 28 miles.

The same thing happened when Opportunity's twin, Spirit, became mired in soft soil in 2009 and its five working wheels couldn't free it. NASA held a "service" to commemorate the end of the mission in May 2011.

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

The golf cart sized rovers were created to operate as geologists for just three months, after bouncing onto our planetary neighbour inside cushioning air bags in January 2004.

The manager of the project, John Callas, described the decay of the machine as like "a loved one who's gone missing".

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

Rather than viewing the dust storm as bad luck, Callas considers it "good luck that we skirted so many possible storms' over the years".

No, I'm not crying over a Mars rover, YOU'RE crying.

"You could have lost a lot of money over the years betting against Opportunity", Squyres told the AP Tuesday. Opportunity's mission has led to many discoveries about the Red Planet, but perhaps the most exciting was when Opportunity found evidence that Mars once had water and supported conditions for sustaining microbial life.

Despite NASA engineers' best efforts to get a response via radio channels, its last communication was on June 10, 2018.

Since the storm, Nasa has tried to contact the machine through recovery commands 1,000 times. Dust has blocked out the sunlight, and even the expected winds from November through January haven't helped to clear Opportunity's sensors and panels. Now it's getting colder and darker at Mars, further dimming prospects.

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