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

NASA is trying one last time to contact Its Own record-setting Mars rover Opportunity, before calling it quits.

The rover was silent for eight months, victim of one of the very intense dust storms in decades. Thick dust darkened the skies last summer and, for months, blocked sunlight from the spacecraft’s solar panels.

NASA said Tuesday it will issue a last series of recovery commands, along with more than 1,000 currently sent. If there’s no response by Wednesday — that NASA suspects is going to be the situation — Opportunity is going to be announced dead, 15 years later arriving in the red planet.

Team members are already looking back at Opportunity’s accomplishments, such as confirmation water once flowed on Mars. Opportunity was, undoubtedly, the longest-lasting lander on Mars. Besides endurance, the six-wheeled rover put a drifting listing of 28 miles (45 kilometres.)

Its identical twin, Spirit, was pronounced dead in 2011, a year after it got stuck in sand and communicating stopped.

The golfing cart-size rovers were designed to function as geologists for only three months, after bouncing onto our planetary neighbour interior cushioning airbags in January 2004. They rocketed from Cape Canaveral per month apart from 2003.

It is no simpler saying goodbye now to Opportunity, than it had been to Spirit, project director John Callas told The Associated Press.

“It is just like a loved one who is gone missing, and you keep holding out hope that they will show up and that they’re healthy,” he said. “But every passing day which diminishes, and at some point you need to say’enough’ and then move on with your daily life.”

Deputy job scientist Abigail Fraeman was a 16-year-old high school student when Opportunity landed on Mars; she had been inside the control centre as part of an outreach program. Launched, Fraeman went on to become a philosophical scientist, joined NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Pasadena, California, also finished up deputy project scientist for Opportunity.

“It gives you an idea just how long this assignment has continued,” she said. “Opportunity’s just been a workhorse… it’s really a testament, I think, to how well the mission was created and how careful the team was in working the vehicle.”

As opposed to seeing the dust storm as bad luck, Callas considers it”good chance that we skirted numerous possible storms’ over the years. Global dust storms normally kick up every couple of decades, and”we had gone a long time without one.”

Cornell University’s Steve Squyres, lead scientist for both Opportunity and Spirit, considers succumbing into some ferocious storm an”honorable way” for the mission to finish.

“You could have lost a lot of cash over the years betting contrary to Opportunity,” Squyres told the AP Tuesday.

The rovers’ best gift, according to Squyres, was supplying a geologic record at two distinct areas where water once flowed on Mars, and describing the conditions there that may have supported potential ancient life.

Flight controls tried to awaken the rover, inventing and sending command following command, month after month. The Martian sky eventually cleared enough for sunlight to reach the rover’s solar panels, but there was no response. Now it is getting darker and colder at Mars, further dimming prospects.

Engineers speculate the rover’s inner clock may have become scrambled during the protracted outage, interrupting the rover’s sleep cycle and draining on-board batteries. It’s particularly frustrating, based on Callas, not understanding precisely why Opportunity — or Spirit — failed.

Now it is around Curiosity along with the newly arrived InSight lander to carry on the heritage, he noted, Together with spacecraft in orbit around Mars.