NASA will formally abandon Mars Opportunity mission

Opportunity

The rover is feared to have been killed in a dust storm which engulfed the whole of Mars in June previous year.

We're still awaiting official word from NASA in the form of a press briefing at 11am PST (2pm EST), but it seems certain that this is the end for the rover.

United States space agency NASA is to hold a briefing today at 7 pm GMT (2 pm ET), in which it is to officially announce the Mars Opportunity Rover mission "dead".

The six-wheeled vehicle that helped gather critical evidence that ancient Mars might have been hospitable to life was remarkably spry up until eight months ago, when it was finally doomed by a ferocious dust storm.

NASA made its final attempts to contact its estranged Martian rover, Opportunity, late Tuesday. Rolling along until communication ceased last June, Opportunity roamed a record 28 miles around Mars and worked longer than any other lander. Flight controllers sent more than 1,000 recovery commands to Opportunity, all in vain.

This illustration made available by NASA shows the rover Opportunity on the surface of Mars.

"But each passing day that diminishes, and at some point you have to say "enough" and move on with your life".

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Meanwhile, the Curiosity rover, which was unaffected by the storm, and the stationary InSight lander, continue to study the Red Planet and carry on missions of discovery that were founded by Opportunity and Spirit.

Nasa wrote: 'The solar-powered rover last communicated with Earth on June 10, 2018, as a planet-wide dust storm was blanketing the Red Planet'.

The experience inspired her to pursue a career at JPL; Fraeman is now a deputy project scientist on the Mars exploration rover project, and works with Opportunity nearly daily.

The rovers' greatest gift, according to Squyres, was providing a geologic record at two distinct places where water once flowed on Mars, and describing the conditions there that may have supported possible ancient life. The storm was so intense that it darkened the sky for months, preventing sunlight from reaching the rover's solar panels.

The lead scientist on the Opportunity project, Cornell University's Steve Squyres, believes the rover has had "an honourable death". "I heard this morning that we had not heard back", said Zurbuchen, explaining that the "beloved" rover remains silent.

Engineers speculate the rover's internal clock may have become scrambled during the prolonged outage, disrupting the rover's sleep cycle and draining on-board batteries.

"Mars is now part of our neighbourhood", he added.

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