NASA has finally been forced to bid farewell to Opportunity, the Mars rover than travelled almost 30 miles (45.16 kilometres) on the red planet, after it failed to answer a last gasp attempt from scientists to rekindle communication earlier today.
The agency has been trying to reconnect with the rover for more than eight months, when the affectionately named ‘Oppy’ fell silent.
A severe dust storm on the planet blocked out all sunlight to the rover – a fatal blow to the machine powered exclusively by solar energy.
The agency is expected to announce that this final attempt was unsuccessful at a press conference at 7 pm GMT (2 pm ET).
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The agency made one final attempt to contact Opportunity Rover (pictured) eight months after the spacecraft last made contact. A giant dust storm blocked sunlight from Mars in 2018, stopping Opportunity’s solar-powered batteries from being able to recharge
The agency was mounting a last-ditch attempt to contact the Opportunity Rover late last night.
It is now believed this was unsuccessful and the curtain can finally come down on Opportunity.
More than 1,000 recovery commands have been sent to the rover in a bid to revive the esteemed machine.
The last signal beamed from the $400 million (£311 million) solar-powered rover was on June 10, 2018.
In August, NASA set a 45 day deadline to declare ‘Oppy’ dead if no response was heard from the aircraft.
In October, this deadline was extended to January to re-evaluate the situation.
Sadly, the space agency decided it can delay the inevitable no more and today will be forever etched in the annals of time as the date NASA abandoned hope of salvaging Opportunity.
The weary nomad on the surface of Mars will now rest, alone, in Mars’ Perseverance Valley.
Brief hope for a rekindling of Opportunity’s communications with Earth arrived when it was spotted by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter with its HiRISE high-resolution camera several months after last contact, but the scientists at NASA failed to establish contact with the rover.
Nasa’s Mars rover Opportunity has travelled further than all other Mars rovers combined. Opportunity landed on Mars in 2004 after being launched from Cape Canaveral with its fellow golf cart-sized twin, Spirit
Opportunity landed on Mars in 2004 after being launched from Cape Canaveral with its fellow golf cart-sized twin, Spirit.
Spirit saw its demise arrive in 2011, a year after it got stuck in sand and communication ceased.
Opportunity went on to rack up 28 miles (45 km) on the planet and sent back priceless data to NASA.
Its original goal was to search for clues about the history of water on Mars as part of a three month long mission.
It was actually operational for a staggering 14 years – 56 times longer than originally anticipated.
Of 43 missions launched toward Mars, only 18 have made it intact, a success rate of around 40 per cent. All those that made it came from the United States.
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 (pictured)
Opportunity’s landing platform, with freshly made tracks. It landed on Mars’ Meridiani Planum plain near its equator on January 25, 2004. Opportunity was only supposed to stay on Mars for 90 days, but lasted an astounding 14 years
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.
It is thought that these formed in pre-existing wet sediments together with what Nasa scientists called: ‘Finely layered ripples, crossbeds, and niches where crystals once grew and were later redissolved’.
Robotic rover missions are an important part of human space exploration because these tools also help inform NASA’s efforts to send people to the surface of Mars sometime in the coming decades.
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.
WHAT IS THE OPPORTUNITY ROVER?
NASA launched the Opportunity rover as part of its Mars Exploration Rover program in 2004.
It landed on Mars’ Meridiani Planum plain near its equator on January 25, 2004.
Opportunity was only supposed to stay on Mars for 90 days, but has now lasted an astounding 14 years.
In its lifetime, Opportunity has explored two craters on the red planet, Victoria and Endeavour, as well as found several signs of water.
It survived a bad dust storm in 2007 and is now being closely watched to see if it can survive a massive storm that has an estimated opacity level of 10.8, a sharp increase from the earlier storm’s 5.5 tau.
NASA has made several updates to the spacecraft since it landed on Mars, such as its flash memory.