NASA's Rover Opportunity Robot unveils its shadow, seen July 26, 2004, and photographed by the front camera for the prevention of rover hazards. At the time, Opportunity was sinking deeper into the endurance crater of the Meridiani Planum region on Mars.
Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech
NASA's Opportunity Rover died on March. The small solar panel robot has apparently run out of energy during the terrible red planet's dust storm in 2018, and after one last attempt to contact him, NASA concluded yesterday (Feb. distant explorer was no longer.
Which raises the question: what will happen with his body?
Many human artifacts would not last long beyond our protective biosphere. As Live Science has previously reported, solar radiation probably destroyed the Tesla Roadster Elon Musk launched in space last year.
But the Tesla Roadster has a lot of organic fibers and plastics in their bodies. Martian rovers are made of stronger materials. [Voyager to Mars Rover: NASA’s 10 Greatest Innovations]
Jeff Moersch, professor of planetary sciences at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and member of the Opportunity team, warned that he was not an expert in rover engineering. But he said that Opportunity has pieces of plastic that could break down in the sunlight, like its insulation.
"But, roughly speaking, I think it will look pretty much like we left," when and if astronauts never meet his resting place, Moersch told Live Science. It will probably be quite dusty, he added.
This presupposes that astronauts travel to Mars in the relatively near future – the next century or two, for example.
According to Moersch, the dust will settle on the rover much longer. The opportunity has worked as long as it has been because regular Martian winds tend to regularly remove dust from his body. But over longer periods, the question of whether dust or wind will prevail is an open question.
"I doubt that he will end up being buried in a mound," he added.
What about millions of years in the future? On Earth, everything that is old and dead and sitting in the same place on the surface ends up in the ground. But it's thanks to the effects of water tectonics and plates, said Moersch – factors that are not present in the same way on Mars.
"In the very long term, you're going to have impacts that overturn ejecta [airborne Mars dirt] from where they hit, and that the ejectas will very gradually come back to the surface [on] the planet and bury things that were on the surface, "he said.
If Opportunity were to stay on Mars, the aliens who would land there in millions and millions of years would find the rover somewhere in the rock record – much like the paleontologists find the dinosaur fossils here on Earth.
But NASA hopes to send humans to Mars someday. And we dream of establishing a kind of human settlement. Steve Squyres, a professor of astronomy at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and head of the scientific mission Opportunity, told NASA's press conference that the rover had died. bring back to Earth. (Why would we spend the money on material from Mars when we already know exactly what it's all about?)
That said, Moersch added, when humans install Mars, it's not unreasonable to imagine they could make an effort to recover and preserve Opportunity. Perhaps it could end up in a museum or the area explored by the rover could become a national park.
Of course, if humans never do, Opportunity may not be in the fossil record. It is at least plausible that, for millions of years, a meteor can hit it directly and crush it to bits.
Originally published on Science live.