NASA officially says goodbye to its Mars rover, Opportunity

NASA officially says goodbye to its Mars rover, Opportunity

But now its 15 year mission has come to an end after a severe Mars-wide dust storm blanketed its location in June 2018.

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

U.S. space agency NASA is to hold a briefing today at 7 pm GMT (2 pm ET), in which it is to officially announce the Mars Opportunity Rover mission "dead". The golf cart-size rovers were created to operate as geologists for just three months, after bouncing onto our planetary neighbor inside cushioning air bags in January 2004.

This evening, Nasa will make one last attempt to communicate with Opportunity, before revealing its findings at a press conference starting at 6pm United Kingdom time tomorrow.

Deputy project scientist Abigail Fraeman was a 16-year-old high school student when Opportunity landed on Mars; she was inside the control center as part of an outreach program.

In the end, Opportunity set endurance and distance records that are years, if not decades, from being broken.

Since the storm, Nasa has tried to contact the machine through recovery commands 1,000 times.

NASA's Opportunity rover never found life on Mars, but in a photo of Meridiani Planum, it did find a mysterious object that looks like a long-eared bunny rabbit. They rocketed from Cape Canaveral a month apart in 2003.

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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".

"This is a celebration of so many achievements", NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told team members gathered at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, for what amounted to a wake for the intrepid rover.

Opportunity, NASA's longest-running Mars rover, outlived its twin rover, Spirit, which went silent in 2010 after getting stuck in a sand trap and running out of power.

NASA last heard from Opportunity on June 10. The last such major storm occurred in 2007, which sent NASA's rovers into a "hunker down" mode for several weeks before the skies cleared.

Nasa's Opportunity on Mars was to search for clues about the history of water.

Cornell University's Steve Squyres, lead scientist for both Opportunity and Spirit, considers succumbing to a ferocious storm an "honorable way" for the mission to end.

As for Opportunity, "It has given us a larger world", Callas said.

"Mars is now part of our neighbourhood", he added.

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