Eight months ago, NASA lost contact with rodent Opportunity on Mars, which has examined the planet’s surface since 2004. The solar-powered rover was trapped as a result of a powerful dust storm that destroyed the sun, its source of energy. And after the storm subsided, Opportunity, affectionately called “Oppy,” did not “wake up.”
On Wednesday, NASA announced that it would no longer hear about this robot.
“We made all reasonable engineering efforts to try to restore the Opportunity and determined that the probability of receiving a signal is too low to continue the restoration work,” said John Callas, Mars Exploration Rover Project Manager at NASA, a press release. ,
In “The Edge,” Loren Grushch explains that the dust storm left a layer of debris too thick on the solar panel or ruined the internal clock of the rover. “Now, Opportunity’s death is almost certain, since the rover is about to enter the Martian winter,” Pear writes. It can not withstand more extreme temperatures than minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit without electric heaters.
The opportunity lasted 14 years in operation on the surface of Mars, thanks to some technical tricks, such as moving the remote vehicle to compensate for a defective wheel. This is the longest period of time that a man-made robot spent exploring another world. And this is surprising, because Opportunity was developed only with a mission of 90 days. Twin Opportunity, a rover named Spirit, which also landed in 2004, stopped working in 2010.
Opportunity (and Spirit) made some surprising discoveries, including the presence of gypsum, which is formed from water rich in minerals and suggests that there was once much more water on the surface of Mars. He also discovered mineral hematite on the surface, another sign that the planet had a more humid past. The spirit found evidence (in the form of chemicals in the stones) that the atmosphere of Mars had once been thicker, which may indicate that the planet used to be more hospitable to life.
The opportunity received an amazing perspective on the surface of Mars, which sent us many incredible photographs of its geology. He even noticed a Martian version of a solar eclipse, when the planet’s moons, Deimos and Phobos, crossed the sun. Here is Phobos, passing on September 20, 2012.
And, perhaps most important, Spirit and Opportunity taught NASA engineers how to better land and control rovers on Mars. These lessons will serve future generations of scientists and, possibly, human researchers.
At one point, Mars Opportunity drove more than 28 miles, a little more than a marathon, and over the distance between Washington, DC and Baltimore, Maryland. Here is a map of your trip superimposed on the maps of the District of Columbia and New York, from one perspective.