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Astronomy and Space Exploration Reporting

NASA says goodbye to the Opportunity rover

It seems that the Opportunity rover, which has braved many obstacles during its 15 years of exploration and exceeded all the expectations of engineers and scientists, fell asleep forever in the Perseverance Valley where it had been stuck since the storm. During all these years, the intrepid and tireless Opportunity rover has never ceased to amaze us while unveiling the geological past of Mars.

Not without trouble, NASA decided to officially say goodbye to Opportunity on February 13 at a press conference. It is not for lack of trying to wake it during these last eight months. But in vain – more than 1,000 attempts were not enough to restore contact with the rover. The last time Opportunity called back was June 10, 2018.

At that time, on Mars, a small dust storm was becoming global and threatening, obscuring the sky above the small Opportunity. The engineers and scientists who were looking after him hoped that he would hold out (it was not the first time the rover had weathered a storm), immobilized for several days, waiting for the sun to come back. But the weather was not on its side and the dark days followed one another too long, delivering the rover to icy nights where it would not be able to warm up. Weeks later, the weather eventually returned to the Perseverance Valley, but in all likelihood, it was too late. Opportunity was too weak.

For NASA and all those who worked on this mission, as well as those that followed since his arrival on Mars on January 24, 2004 in the Meridiani plain, it is difficult to say that this little robot 174 kg will never again make contact with the Earth in the morning. The adventure stops there.

“For more than a decade, Opportunity has been an icon in the field of planetary exploration, informing us about Mars’ ancient past as a wet and potentially habitable planet, and revealing unexplored Martian landscapes,” Thomas Zurbuchen from NASA said.

Opportunity: a rover that has surpassed all expectations

Besides its real name MER-B (Mars Exploration Rover), and nicknamed Opportunity, it could also be called Endurance or Perseverance. Initially, we must remember that the rover arrived 20 days after its twin Spirit (Spirit is blocked since 2011) thousands of kilometers away, was supposed to work only 90 days and only drive 1,100 meters. Far exceeding all the expectations of longevity, it finally broke several records. And if this storm had not passed by, Opportunity would probably have been able to travel long on the slopes of this valley and beyond. Humanity, which is now targeting the colonization of its neighbor, owes him a lot.

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