NASA to make final attempt to contact Mars Opportunity Rover

13 Février, 2019, 18:22 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • An illustration made available by NASA shows the rover Opportunity on the surface of Mars

The agency will have made one final attempt to contact Opportunity Rover late last night US time (Tuesday), eight months after the spacecraft last made contact. NASA officials issued a final series of recovering commands on Tuesday, on top of 1,000 which have already been sent.

Nasa's Opportunity on Mars was to search for clues about the history of water.

It is no easier saying goodbye now to Opportunity, than it was to Spirit, project manager John Callas said.

Deputy project scientist Abigail Fraeman was a 16-year-old high school student when Opportunity landed on Mars.

Despite NASA engineers' best efforts to get a response via radio channels, its last communication was on June 10, 2018 after more than 600 attempts since August.

Inspired, Dr Fraeman went on to become a planetary scientist, joined NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and ended up deputy project scientist for Opportunity.

"It gives you an idea just how long this mission has lasted", she said. Global dust storms typically kick up every few years, and "we had gone a long time without one".

Flight controllers tried to awaken the rover, devising and sending command after command for months.

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Launched on May 5, InSight marks NASA's first landing on Mars since the Curiosity rover in 2012 and the first dedicated to studying the deep interior of the red planet.

The swirling maelstrom may have dumped dust onto the solar panels which power the rover, meaning it can not recharge its battery to make contact with mission control back on Earth.

Now it is becoming colder and darker on Mars, further dimming prospects.

Cornell University's Steve Squyres, lead scientist for both Opportunity and Spirit, considers succumbing to a ferocious storm an "honorable way" for the mission to end.

"You could have lost a lot of money over the years betting against Opportunity", Professor Squyres said.

The rovers' greatest gift, according to Professor Squyres, was providing a geologic record at two distinct places where water once flowed on Mars, and describing the conditions there that may have supported possible ancient life.

"Once set, it will take Mars' temperature and tell us how much heat is flowing from inside", it tweeted. The Curiosity rover is still in place. It's especially frustrating, according to Callas, not knowing precisely why Opportunity - or Spirit - failed. "Mars is now part of our neighbourhood".

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