NASA declares Mars rover Opportunity dead

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																	This dune-covered volcanic rock bed is one of the coolest places on Mars					
								
			
	
		Mike Wehner

Science This dune-covered volcanic rock bed is one of the coolest places on Mars Mike Wehner

As the thick dust whipped up and around the rover - and across the entirety of Mars - the sunlight that powers it was blocked and its batteries ran out.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which designed, built and has operated all four of the rovers sent successfully to Mars' surface, according to its website, also praised Opportunity as completing "one of the most successful and enduring feats of interplanetary exploration".

Mars 2020 project system engineer Jennifer Trosper, left, points to a replica of the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity on 13/2/19.

The team had dwindled to 30 by the time Opportunity went silent, he said.

"It's going to be very sad to say goodbye", said John Callas, the mission's project manager. "Science is an emotional affair, it's a team sport", he said. We have a rover on Mars!

Cornell University's Steve Squyres, lead scientist for both Opportunity and Spirit, considers succumbing to a ferocious storm an "honourable way" for the mission to end. Instead, the rover has persisted for 15 years, sending back incredible data and photos from Mars to help uncover the Red Planet's secrets.

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The Opportunity rover's legacy is firmly in place as the Mars InSight lander, which touched down on Mars last fall, is now beginning its research as the Curiosity rover continues to explore Mars' Gale Crater.

First, it landed on Eagle crater, a 22-metre-long ditch, and found tiny spherical structures, nicknamed "blueberries", made from hematite. Odyssey and MRO look for seasonal deposits of water on Mars, while InSight will study underground, looking for potential signs of unexpected heat and seismic activity that could show that Mars is still alive.

Back in 2013, when Oppy was nine years old, there were fears the rover was near the end of its life, with Mr Callas saying: "The rover could have a catastrophic failure at any moment".

It landed in Eagle Crater, moved on to Endurance Crater and planned to visit Victoria Crater. Engineers estimated the rover's maximum range at 1,100 yards.

The two rovers' greatest achievement was finding firm proof that water that could have sustained microbial life had once flowed on the Martian surface. Opportunity was, by far, the longest-lasting lander on Mars.

"You could have lost a lot of money over the years betting against Opportunity", Squyres told the AP Tuesday.

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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. That storm darkened the skies and cut off of the rover's solar power.

This image sent by NASA's Opportunity rover on January 7, 2015 shows a view from atop a Martian hill. Its last message was "My battery is low and it's getting dark". Spirit and Opportunity, on the other hand, chewed up miles and miles of red dirt. Scientists judged that perhaps its internal clock was so scrambled that it no longer knew when to sleep to conserve energy or wake up to receive commands.

Curiosity tweeted its farewell to Opportunity. No other vehicle, robotic or crewed, has ever traveled farther on the surface of another world.

"It is therefore that I am standing here with a sense of deep appreciation and gratitude [and] I declare the Opportunity mission as complete". "But we want to remember the 14-and-a-half years of phenomenal exploration".

"It's the public that followed along with our every step". Their legacy, he said, will live on with the enthusiasm and support for not only Curiosity, now exploring Mars, but the upcoming Mars 2020 mission as well.

"Farewell, Opportunity, and well done".

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As it became clear the rover was about to be declared dead, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said that he was encountering people "a little choked up" but that the general mood was one of celebration.

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