Eight months after last hearing from the Opportunity rover, NASA officials announced the end of the craft’s 15-year mission Wednesday, closing out an ambitious chapter of Mars exploration that proved the Red Planet once harbored running water and demonstrated the promise of mobile robotic scouts to survey other worlds.
NASA’s Mars Opportunity rover landed on Mars 15 years ago this week, but the long-lived robot remains out of action in the wake of a global dust storm last summer that caused it to lose power. Engineers are still trying to contact the spacecraft, sending commands and listening for any sort of response, but hopes are fading, a senior manager said Friday.
Flight controllers have not heard from NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover since June 10 when an increasingly severe global dust storm blocked out the sun, preventing its solar arrays from recharging the robot’s batteries. But the dust storm is finally abating and engineers are hopeful the long-lived rover will wake up and phone home in the next few weeks.
NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover, 14 years past its original 90-day design life, has dropped out of contact with Earth after powering down everything but its master clock in a bid to weather a huge dust storm that is blotting out the sun, preventing the solar-powered rover from recharging its batteries, mission managers said Wednesday.
NASA has released the first high-resolution aerial color image of the Opportunity rover’s landing site on a sprawling Martian plain, where the airbag-cushioned robot fortuitously rolled into a Eagle Crater in January 2004, putting its scientific instruments face-to-face with a block of sedimentary rock that gave ground teams confirmation Mars was once a warmer, wetter, and habitable planet.
NASA managers formally approved the New Horizons mission another speedy encounter with an object at the frontier of the solar system, but denied a request from scientists to redirect the Dawn spacecraft to visit a third destination in the asteroid belt, opting to keep it in orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres, officials said Friday.