Rover Opportunity leave NM Legacy on Mars

Opportunity's record-setting mission on Mars appears to have reached its end

NASA's Opportunity, the Mars rover that was built to operate for just three months but kept going and going, rolling across the rocky red soil, was pronounced dead Wednesday, 15 years after it landed on the planet.

Trundling along at five centimetres per second (0.1 miles per hour), Opportunity covered 28 miles of Martian ground in its time, and took a peek at numerous Red Planet's impact craters.

"Cornell astronomer Steve Squyres, who was the principal investigator of the Mars Exploration Rover mission, recalled that the initial evidence suggested Mars" ancient water was highly acidic.

Opportunity was the fifth of eight NASA space vehicles that have successfully landed on Mars.

In addition to exceeding its life expectancy by 60 times, the rover travelled more than 28 miles by the time it reached its final resting spot on Mars - Perseverance Valley.

John Callas, manager of the MER project, said in a statement that "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". The space agency is developing another Curiosity-class rover for launch in 2020. Spirit got stuck in a sand trap and went dark in 2009, still far beyond its intended expiration date. Opportunity's last communication with its handlers occurred on June 10.

The rover was as only created to survive for 90 days on the surface of Mars but kept on trundling for 15 years.

It stumbled upon the first meteorite found on another planet, revealing that Meridiani Planum was once immersed in water, studied more than 100 impact craters and sent home stunning panoramas of a planet nearly 34 million miles from Earth. This was a 90-day mission, and we were so excited by just having three months to explore the planet with just a kilometer of capability.

Indeed, Opportunity performed incredibly well for over a decade as it crawled across the Martian surface and conducted science on behalf of its handlers back on NASA.

In 2021, the recently named Rosalind Franklin robot, part of the European-Russian ExoMars mission, is slated to land on a different part of the planet, raising the population of active rovers to two.

Stay tuned for more on the life, times and (likely) end of Opportunity later today.

"Today we get to celebrate the end of this mission", said NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine.

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

NASA's InSight lander touched down last November, while the Curiosity rover has been exploring the Gale Crater for more than six years.

Its greatest achievement was discovering, along with its partner, evidence that water flowed on the ancient Martian surface and that the planet might have been capable of sustaining microbial life.

Opportunity and a twin rover, Spirit, which had reached Mars on January 4, 2004, were created to operate for only 90 days. The Mars Exploration Rovers, he added, "energized the public about the spirit of robotic Mars exploration".

Rover robots found signs of water in the first rocks they encountered on Mars, as rocks near the aircraft's landing site contained pearl-shaped rocks.

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