FILE – This image provided by NASA shows the rover Opportunity on the surface of Mars.
(NASA via AP)
NASA has finally unplug the plug on its Mars Opportunity rover, which has been silent on the Red Planet’s surface for eight months.
“I declare that I have the Opportunity mission is complete,” said NASA’s Associate Administrator Thomas Zurbuchen during a press conference on Wednesday. “I have to tell you, this is an emotional time,” he added.
The rover reached Mars in 2004, but NASA lost contact with the car of last year after an epic dust storm that engulfed the red planet and preventing sunlight from reaching the surface. The last signal received from the $400 million solar-powered rover was on 10 June 2018.
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NASA made its last scheduled attempt to communicate with Opportunity late on Tuesday, but got no response back. “I heard this morning that we haven’t heard,” said Zurbuchen, explaining that the “beloved” rover remains silent.
The missing vehicle was spotted three months later. On Sept. 20, the HiRISE high-resolution camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured an image of the rover on Mars’ Perseverance Valley. However, the scientists were still not able to talk with the vehicle.
Opportunity landed on Mars on Jan. 24, 2004 PST, just three weeks after its identical twin, the Spirit reached the Red Planet’s surface.
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Both survived and performed better than expected, on opposite sides of Mars. The golf-cart-sized rovers were designed to work as geologists for only three months, after the bounce on our planetary neighbor within cushioning airbags. They rocket from Cape Canaveral a month apart in 2003. Spirit was declared dead in 2011, a year after he got stuck in the sand, and communication ceased.
“This is a celebration of so many achievements,” says NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, Wednesday during a press conference at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
Opportunity records on the Red Planet. Rolling along until communications ceased in June of last year, the Chances were a record 28 km around Mars and has worked longer than any other lander.
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His greatest achievement was the discovery, together with the Spirit, the evidence that ancient Mars had water on its surface and might have been capable of preserving the microbial life.
Contact the Chance is lost during the burning Martian dust storm of the last few decades. The storm was so intense, that it darkened the sky for months, preventing sunlight from reaching the rover’s solar panels.
The storm may have scrambled the rover, the internal clock of the NASA explained on Wednesday, which means that the rover would not know when to sleep, wake up, or the receiving of commands.
NASA has two other probes on Mars. The Curiosity rover, which reached the Red Planet in August 2012, has more than 12 miles on the odometer. NASA’s Insight Mars Lander reached the surface of the Red Planet in November 2018, the end of a journey that took six months and more than 300 million kilometres.
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In November 2018, NASA announced that it has been chosen for the location where the Mars 2020 will land rover on the Red Planet. The rover is expected to land on Mars Jan. 18, 2021.
Fox News’ Chris Ciaccia, Samuel Chamberlain, and the Associated Press contributed to this article. Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers