Mars rover Opportunity pronounced dead after 15 years of service

Opportunity's record-setting mission on Mars appears to have reached its end

"It is because of trailblazing missions such as Opportunity that there will come a day when our courageous astronauts walk on the surface of Mars", NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said.

NASA is already working on the next mission to the Red Planet: Mars 2020 is on track to launch in July 2020.

Pathfinder included a little rover called Sojourner, but that microwave-oven-size robot traveled a total of just 330 feet (100 meters) during its pioneering operational life.

But Opportunity had shown other signs of age.

Jennifer Trosper, who served as project systems engineer for the Mars Exploration Rover mission and is playing a similar role in the 2020 Mars rover mission, suggested that future explorers might bring Opportunity and Rover back to Earth.

Some in the Martian exploration community criticized NASA for its plan to rouse the rover.

"I can not think of a more appropriate place for Opportunity to endure on the surface of Mars than one called Perseverance Valley", said Michael Watkins, director of JPL. "But if you look to its ancient past, you find compelling evidence for liquid water below the surface and liquid water at the surface".

NASA shows the tool turret at the end of the the Opportunity rover's robotic arm on the southern side of "Marathon Valley", which goes through the western rim of Endeavour Crater on January 5, 2016.

The rover has not been heard from since June previous year when the storm blanketed the Red Planet, blocking sunlight and causing solar-powered Oppy to go into hibernation.

After months of silence from Mars, NASA finally read the rites over its Opportunity rover, hailing the six-wheeled machine as an overachiever that found some of the first and best evidence of the Red Planet's warmer, wetter past. "That's their home. That's where I would like them to stay", Squyres said. That's the place that they were created to go.

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Since then, the JPL has tried over 1,000 times to re-establish communication, to no avail. Rolling along until communication ceased last June, Opportunity roamed a record 28 miles around Mars and worked longer than any other lander.

Engineers lost contact with the solar-powered vehicle, dubbed Opportunity, on June 10 of previous year during an enormous dust storm that encircled Mars. Because the rover is solar-powered, it was unable to charge its batteries and operate, presumably due to its solar panels being covered by a significant amount of dust, sand and dirt.

NASA last heard from Opportunity on June 10.

The storm eventually enshrouded all of Mars. The agency will have made one final attempt to contact Opportunity Rover late last night U.S. time (Tuesday), eight months after the spacecraft last made contact.

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.

The programme has had an extraordinary record of success: 45.2km traversed, more than the Soviet Union's Lunokhod 2 moon rover during the 1970s and more than the rover that USA astronauts took to the moon on the Apollo 17 mission in 1972.

And the duo's work has paved the way for even more-ambitious Red Planet roving. On the surface, there's Curiosity and the recently arrived Mars InSight, which will dig underground on Mars in search of seismic activity.

So there are many aspects to the MER legacy - for example, making Mars a semifamiliar place, revealing secrets about the planet's possibly life-supporting past, and developing the engineering know-how to keep robots alive and productive on a frigid, radiation-blasted planet for years and years. During its 15-year mission, the rover cleared dust from 52 rocks, exposing the mineral surfaces for analysis.

"We built them for Mars".

NASAs Mars Curiosity Rover takes a selfie in the middle of a massive storm.

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