Thanks Opportunity for your service. The longest lived rover in the history of the martian exploration finished its mission and it’s been declared “dead”.
It was planned to live just 3 months, but it resisted to the alien world for 15 years, by revealing many secrets of the red planet, until there still unknown.
The rover is not able any more to emit and to receive communications. For this reason it’s been announced the end of its long mission on the martian ground, where it will remain switched off forever.
The NASA, meanwhile, commemorates it, by remembering how important its existence was and how much its goodbye will leave emptiness in the memories of first martian pioneers.
The NASA just announced to the world that Opportunity, at the end, didn’t resisted to the martian life, and, after fifteen years, it stopped to communicate with the planet Earth.
It was Thomas Zurbuchen, manager of the scientifical missions of the NASA to say the new to the world, the last 13th of February: “With a feeling of deep gratitude and thankfulness, I declare the Opportunity mission as complete”.
But Thomas isn’t the only one to commemorate the rover all choked up.
Tanya Harrison, planetary scientists, for example, entrusts her epitaph to twitter: “There was silence. There were tears. There were hugs. There were memories and laughs shared. Thank You Oppy! Good night Oppy!”.
What’s happened to Opportunity?
It is since June of the 2018 that from the rover comes only silence. A dust storm hit the red planet, exactly in the point where there were Opportunity, by darkening the solar panels form the sun light.
The last news that the scientists have is that the rover‘s battery was almost completly over and so Opportunity, to pass on the crisis, went in energy saving mode.
Almost all the activities were frozen, doing that at the end of the storm the rover should have enough energy to recover.
At least it was what the scientists hoped. However the storm finished, but from Opportunity didn’t come any signs any more.
The Opportunity’s last message dates back to the 10th June 2018.
In the following months the scientists tried again to contact the rover, but after the umpteenth silence, the last 12th of February, it was decided with a heavy heart to declare the “death” of Opportunity.
Why did Opportunity not recover after the storm?
The scientists waited for seven months before to declare the mission finished, that’s because they hoped that Opportunity was able to recover itself.
Having received no datas from the rover, they don’t know what happened. The going assumption is the one that the strong storm deposited a huge quantity of sand on the top of the solar panels.
So even though the sky came back cloudless the sun rays were not able to supply the panels and, so, the rover.
But the scientists hoped that the windy period between November and January brushed off the sand deposited on the panels, allowing Opportunity to recover.
Obviusly something went wrong and the NASA was forced to announce the end of the mission the 13th February of 2019, during a press release organised right for it.
Furthermore, it’s arriving the martian winter, which will let the temperature drop down to -100°. Opportunity, which probably remained without charge won’t be able to warm and protect itself and many of the instrumentations will freeze.
For this further reason the scientists decided to not try any more to contact the rover, by declaring it definitelly dead.
The rover, built to survive 3 months on the martian surface resisted almost 15 years. During its life Opportunity walked for more than 45 kilometers, by giving us more than 200 pictures of the martian landscape.
The datas collected confirmed the theory according to which once Mars was a planet really similar to the Earth, with wet and warm areas, suitable for life.
Opportunity, together with its twin Spirit, “dead” for nine years now, was the first one to arrive on the martian surface. It was even the first one to examine sedimentary rocks and the first one to assume that the barren valley that it was crossing was once sailed by a watercourse.
The crater fully explored seems to be able to host once the life and the discoveries made by the rover revolutionized the martian exploration.
Thanks Opportunity to teached us that our closest neighbour, now a dead red planet, was maybe once as thriving as the Earth is.
This post is also available in: Italiano