MARS — In a mission that was only supposed to last 90 days that stretched out over the last lasted over 14 years, the Opportunity rover’s mission has come to a close.
To the robot who turned 90 days into 15 years of exploration:
You were, and are, the Opportunity of a lifetime.
Rest well, rover. Your mission is complete.
— Spirit and Oppy (@MarsRovers) February 13, 2019
“When this little rover landed the objective was to have it move 1,100 yards and survive 90 days,” Jim Bridenstine NASA Administrator said during a news conference yesterday, “and instead we’re here, 14 years later with over 28 miles traveled.”
The Opportunity rover went silent on June 10th of last year after a planetary dust storm covered the planet blocking Opportunity from getting any sunlight to power its solar array.
On Tuesday night the team set their final commands asking the rover to respond. After sending over 1,000 commands to the rover since June to try and recover her, there was no response and on Tuesday the decision was made to call the mission complete.
It takes about 13 and a half minutes for a signal to reach the red planet, and another 13 and a half minutes for any response to return.
The last message they received was basically, “My battery is low and it’s getting dark.” They hoped that the windy season would clear dust off the solar panels (if that was the problem). Since then they’ve been pinging her again and again, every way they knew… 3/
— Jacob Margolis (@JacobMargolis) February 12, 2019
Opportunity was one of two twin rovers that were sent to gather geologic data from Mars in January of 2004 to collect data about the Martian landscape.
One of the first things that Opportunity found after landing on the surface of Mars was something that the teams back on earth called “blueberries” which they later discovered were formed in water, which was definitive proof that water had indeed been present on the red planet.
After long outliving its expected mission tenure, the decision was made to keep exploring, and more discoveries followed. After traveling for kilometers and setting records for longest single day drives on the alien planet, Opportunity reached the rim of Endeavor crater and found rocks, older than the formation of the crater itself, where it was observed that there was the presence of drinkable water that had flowed on the surface.
That became one of the most scientifically significant discoveries of the mission, and it happened years after its scheduled expiration date.
Oppy, as it was affectionately called became the longest running rover and captured over 215,000 raw images.
“Science is an emotional affair, it’s a team sport, that’s what we’re celebrating today,” said Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate yesterday.
“I cannot think of a more appropriate place for Opportunity to endure on the surface of Mars than one called Perseverance Valley,” said Michael Watkins the director of JPL. “The records, discoveries and sheer tenacity of this intrepid little rover is a testament to the ingenuity, dedication and perseverance of the people who built and guided her.”
Oppy is preceded in her passing by twin sister Spirit that was mired in sand in January of 2009, and is survived by the Curiosity rover who landed on the red planet in 2012.
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