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NASA About to Pull Plug on Mars Rover, Silent for 8 Months

NASA About to Pull Plug on Mars Rover, Silent for 8 Months

Two spacecraft engineers stand with three generations of Mars rovers developed at NASA JPL, Pasadena, Ca.

Indeed, Opportunity performed incredibly well for over a decade as it crawled across the Martian surface and conducted science on behalf of its handlers back on NASA.

NASA held a press conference chronicling its life and going into even further detail on why Opportunity is officially being let go.

It may be time to finally say goodbye to the Opportunity rover.

According to Steve Squyres of the Mars Exploration Rover Mission, Opportunity "really changed the way scientists perceive Mars". Then, it was on to Victoria crater, and from there Opportunity traveled through Marathon Valley, so named because that's where the rover crossed the "marathon" mark of 26.2 miles. Spirit and Opportunity, on the other hand, chewed up miles and miles of red dirt. There was no response, and NASA is convening its leadership to deliver what appears to be a eulogy for its well-traveled robot Wednesday at 11 a.m. PT.

United States space agency NASA is to hold a briefing today at United Kingdom time 7 pm, in which it is to officially announce the Mars Opportunity Rover mission "dead". Opportunity was only created to operate for 90 Martian days, but it lasted nearly 15 years (over 5,000 Martian days) and reshaped our understanding of the red planet along the way. It's been suggested by some on the team that Curiosity may not ever get the same life span, and Mars 2020 (you can guess when NASA intends to launch it) is a lot like an upgraded Curiosity.

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"I was there with the team as these commands went out into the deep sky, and I learned this morning that we had not heard back and Opportunity remained silent", said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA associate administrator for space science. Other landers found only patchy evidence of the past life of Mars, but Opportunity unlocked ancient lake beds and truly uncanny evidence for a wet and warm past on the Red Planet.

InSight landed safely on Mars on November 26, kicking off a two-year mission to explore the deep interior of the Red Planet. After that period, they were planning to go into a "passive listening" mode, where they would stop sending signals and just monitor the rover's signals to see if it was calling home. "I feel great about this", he said, stressing that both Spirit and Opportunity died honorable deaths after doing far more than was expected of them. Nonetheless, both vehicles exceeded NASA's expectations - especially Opportunity. It's the accomplished exploration and phenomenal discoveries.

Despite the windy season sweeping over the planet, which scientists hoped would clear the solar-powered rover, engineers have not been able to attempt a recovery mission with zero contact.

Of course, the rover's mission wasn't about setting speed records.

If the machine does not respond, Nasa will declare the rover dead.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said such robotic missions will set the stage for human missions to the Red Planet. "And when that day arrives, some portion of that first footprint will be owned by the men and women of Opportunity and a little rover that defied the odds and did so much in the name of exploration".


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