Rover Team Beaming New Commands to Opportunity on Mars

Artist's illustration of NASA's Opportunity rover on the surface of Mars

NASA's Curiosity rover has taken its last selfie on Vera Rubin Ridge and descended toward a clay region of Mount Sharp. Now, the scientists fear that Opportunity Rover is dead for good due to the dust storm that swiped Mars a year ago, as the most recent attempts to contact the rover returned no results.

NASA's Curiosity rover has taken its last selfie on the twisting ridge on Mars that has been the robotic explorer's home for more than a year, the U.S. space agency said.

The newly shared selfie photo is not a single image, but 57 pictures taken using Curiosity's Mars Hand Lens Imager camera. Among other things, Curiosity drilled multiple samples, the 19th of which was acquired from the Rock Hall drill site on December 15, 2018. The rover's drill, which it uses to pierce rock and obtain samples for further study, experienced extended downtime when a stabilizing mechanism broke. According to the space agency, the Mars environment looks dustier than usual because of a dust storm now happening at that particular location. Although the storm cleared eventually, the 15-year old rover is yet to re-communicate with Earth ever since.

Curiosity has been exploring the twisting Vera Rubin ridge since September 2017. It is now headed into the "clay-bearing unit", which sits in a trough just south of the ridge. When it gets there, it will check out the unit's clay minerals, which might provide key details on Mars' ancient lakes.

Curiosity, which landed on Mars in 2012, was created to assess whether Mars ever had an environment able to support small life forms called microbes.

NASA's beloved Mars rover Opportunity has been silent for months after getting swept up in an enormous dust storm on the Red Planet last summer, and NASA engineers have been pinging the rover to answer to no avail.

"This could be the end".

"I haven't given up yet", Squyres told The New York Times. Under the assumption that this is the end, it feels good.

Meanwhile, the Curiosity rover and the stationary InSight lander are continuing their missions on the Red Planet.

Opportunity and its twin rover, Spirit, were launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in 2003.

But Callas and the Opportunity team are also realistic. The aging rover was never created to last this long in the first place, so it's feared the drained batteries have become damaged during the extended downtime. While Spirit's run on Mars effectively ended in 2011, Opportunity persisted and continued to make invaluable scientific discoveries.



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