Obituaries in: Rover Opportunity Mars


AAmerica bid farewell to an old faithful friend this month as NASA closed the book on the record-breaking Mars Operator's record, officially declaring the end of its nearly 15 years of exploration on Wednesday, February 13th.

Opportunity had stopped communicating with the Earth as a result of a violent global-scale dust storm that swept through Mars in June 2018, covering the solar-powered rover. According to NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), more than a thousand attempts have been made to contact the mobile standby, but without success. Engineers at NASA's Space Flight Operations Center in Pasadena, California, made one last attempt to relaunch Opportunity on Feb. 12, but they also failed.

The possibility survives the Curiosity Rover and the InSight lander, both on Mars, as well as by the rover still undetermined "March 2020", which should be launched next July.

Government projects tend to be late and off budget. "Oppy" was a beloved exception.

Arrived on March 24, 2004, seven months after its launch in Cape Canaveral, Florida, Opportunity was designed to last 90 Martian days and cover a total of 1,100 yards. (The Martian days last about 40 minutes longer than ours.) Instead, the rover the size of a golf cart outpaced its two presidents and the entire series of "How do I get it?" met your mother "(2005-2014), thus exceeding his life expectancy by 60%. Opportunity has explored the red planet for nearly 14 years, traveling more than 28 km and returning more than 217,000 images to Earth. In comparison, his twin, Spirit, who arrived on the red planet 20 days before Opportunity, traveled about 5 km before dying in May 2011.

The main objective of the rovers was to search for traces of water on Mars, to determine if the climate of the planet could sustain life. "Right from the start, Opportunity was created," said Steve Squyres, senior research scientist at the rovers at Cornell University. His discoveries, as well as those of the Spirit, revealed "irrefutable evidence" of the existence of liquid water, on the surface and below, during the ancient past of Mars.

A team of engineers, pilots and scientists has managed and operated Opportunity Remote Earth, with the goal of "meeting the challenges and passing the rover from a geological site on Mars to the l & # 39; 39; other, "explained the JPL. "They laid out walkable avenues on rough terrain so that the Martian explorer could … maneuver and, sometimes, on rocks and rocks, climb gravel-covered slopes as steep as 32 degrees (a record in out of the Earth), search the bottom of the craters, the hills at the top and cross the dried river beds possible. "

One of the greatest challenges of the rover team appeared in April 2005, when Opportunity seemed thwarted by a treacherous ripple of Martian sand (when the sand is dragged by the surface or by water into formations resembling shallow dunes). Crossing the region of Meridiani Planum of Mars, Opportunity got bogged down in the ripple, later dubbed the "Dune of Purgatory", after its six wheels sank to a depth of about four inches in the dust and sand blown from the wind. If that does not seem discouraging enough, imagine trying to drive a remotely operated car from a Firewamp bunker in St. Andrews. After more than five weeks of planning, mapping and testing, not to mention hard-working and progressive driving, the Opportunity team managed to clear the rover of danger in early June 2005. To my knowledge, this escape holds the record for the longest roadside assistance operation ever conducted. (Eat your heart, AAA.)

The dune of purgatory was far from its only extraterrestrial test. The same year, Opportunity lost the steering of one of its front wheels and suffered a heating problem that almost paralyzed its total solar power capacity. In 2007, he resisted a dust storm that lasted two months. Finally, the years and the kilometers began to wreak havoc. In 2015, the JPL reported that Oppy had lost the use of its 256 megabyte flash memory. two years later, he lost the direction of his other front wheel. Nevertheless, the intrepid rover-that-could persevere, beat and bruised, until finally succumbing to the dust in June 2018.

To make the Opportunity mission a success is to do a disservice to the crew and the craft. The company is a tremendous scientific and technical success, conceived in the indelible spirit of exploration and innovation in the United States, which represents the great virtues of the noble human effort. The opportunity has been made manifest by American exceptionalism, be it a providence or a coincidence, it is quite appropriate that the rover finds his last resting place in the Western arm of the Perseverance Valley of Mars.

Farewell, Oppy, your nation salutes you.

J. Grant Addison is Associate Editor of Washington Reviewer Magazine.

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