NASA officially declares ‘Opportunity’ rover dead

Photo courtesy of NASA | NASA’s Opportunity rover has officially been declared dead after it did not respond to the thousands of commands scientists sent to it. Opportunity was the longest lasting rover to explore another planet.

The Xavier science community is mourning the loss of the revolutionary Mars rover “Opportunity.”

Matthew Holderman, a first-year engineering physics student, was saddened but said, “the loss could mean a boost of enthusiasm in the effort of trying to get another rover (on Mars).”

Scientists have sent the robot thousands of commands in attempts to wake up Opportunity. A final series of commands was sent out earlier this month.

John Callas, manager of the Mars Exploration Rover project at NASA, said “Even though it’s a machine, and we’re saying goodbye, it’s still very hard and very poignant, but we had to do that.”

The rover went dark about eight months ago after a severe sandstorm caused an obstruction of the solar panels. It was the thickest storm NASA has ever seen on Mars.

Opportunity’s death is now official. In June 2018, Opportunity sent its last transmission to scientists.

It reportedly sent to NASA, “My battery is low and it’s getting dark.” 

NASA used songs by several artists try to rouse the rover. These included Queen, David Bowie, Foo Fighters and Elton Jonh. The playlist, titled, “Opportunity, Wake Up!” is available on Spotify.

However, the songs have failed to awaken the sleeping rover, and it has been declared dead by NASA.

The mission has been completed, and it signifies the end and beginning of a new scientific era.

Opportunity’s final resting place has been named “Perseverance Valley” in honor of its accomplishments.

NASA scientists hoped that the wind would remove the sand from the panels, but the windy months had passed. Martian winter is approaching quickly, and temperatures can drop to -150 degrees Fahrenheit.

Although the rover survived numerous past winters, Opportunity is unable to utilize its internal heating processes, meaning that its parts can become brittle and most likely break.

When originally launched in 2003, Opportunity was expected to last 90 Martian days and travel 1,100 yards. The rover exceeded expectations, surviving almost 15 years and traveling 28 miles. 

“It’s impressive that it lasted so much longer than it was designed for. Especially in a harsh climate like Mars, Jonathon Hopkins, an engineering physics student with a background in robotics, said.

There were several close calls in the past, but Opportunity persevered through all of them. The rover suffered the loss of steering in both front wheels, a two-month dust storm, a stuck heater and a wiped flash memory.

There is a deep sense of gratitude and appreciation for Opportunity in the scientific community. The mission has provided fruitful information on the previously unexplored red planet. One of the most notable accomplishments of Opportunity was the discovery of the previous existence of water and support for microbial life on Mars.

Opportunity is now the longest lasting rover to explore another planet.

By: Sierra Ross | Staff Writer