RIP Opportunity, the Little Mars Rover That Could
Oppy, which was designed for a 90 day lifespan, lasted an incredible 5,475 days.
NASA is preparing to say goodbye to their beloved Mars rover Opportunity, which appears to have reached the end of its long exploratory life on the red planet. Opportunity, also known as MER-B (Mars Exploration Rover) or Oppy, launched on July 7, 2003, traveling through space until it landed on Mars on January 25, 2004. Its twin rover, Spirit, had landed three weeks earlier on the other side of the planet.
Opportunity and Spirit were built to last 90 days, but Opportunity far exceeded that number, roving for nearly 15 years. That’s three presidents ago. Opportunity traveled roughly 28 miles before an intense dust storm on June 10, 2018 sent the rover into hibernation. With dust covering its solar panels, Opportunity went silent.
Since last summer, NASA has sent over 1,000 commands to the rover, and have received no response. Today in a press conference, they are expected to bid the six-wheeled rover farewell.
Project manager John Callas said, “It’s just like a loved one who’s gone missing, and you keep holding out hope that they will show up and that they’re healthy … But each passing day that diminishes, and at some point you have to say ‘enough’ and move on with your life.”
In addition to its unprecedented lifespan, Opportunity provided the world with valuable geological information about Mars. The rover discovered extramartian meteorites such as Heat Shield Rock (Meridiani Planum meteorite). It also discovered evidence that there was once water on Mars, which may have been a possible breeding ground for extraterrestrial life.
Deputy project scientist Abigail Fraeman said, “It gives you an idea just how long this mission has lasted. Opportunity’s just been a workhorse … it’s really a testament, I think, to how well the mission was designed and how careful the team was in operating the vehicle.”
Many people took to Twitter to mourn Opportunity and its historic run:
Sad news. Mars rover #Opportunity is probably done. Sometime tonight, a team @NASAJPL will make their final attempt to contact #Oppy. If they can’t, they’ll likely call the mission. Here’s what happened… 1/ pic.twitter.com/oLgATexUHN
— Jacob Margolis (@JacobMargolis) February 12, 2019
A moment of silence for the little robot that could and its poignant last message “My battery is low and it is getting dark.”
Then raise a glass to Oppy’s engineers, who built a machine that lasted 5,475 days into its 90-day mission. https://t.co/vemZ4ItkQ7
— Nea (@bookish_nea) February 13, 2019
— Chuck Wendig (@ChuckWendig) February 13, 2019
— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) February 13, 2019
Fun fact: #Opportunity has been on Mars since January 2004, longer than Facebook (February 2004), Twitter (2006), and the iPhone (2007) have existed.
— Jonathan O’Callaghan (@Astro_Jonny) February 13, 2019
-Built for 92 days – Worked for 14 years
-Found evidence for water on Mars
-Found the first Martian Meteorite
-Studied it’s crashed heat shield
— Martian Wolf (@wolf_martian) February 13, 2019
— Buzz Aldrin (@TheRealBuzz) February 13, 2019
— Jenna (@starshipTARDIS) February 13, 2019
— Drezz (@drezzrod) February 13, 2019
No, I’m not crying over a Mars rover, YOU’RE crying. RIP Oppy, you were the best rover that ever rovered.
(via AP, image: NASA/JPL/Cornell University)
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