NASA announced today that its attempts to contact the Martian exploration robot Opportunity they have not succeeded, what is the end of one of the most successful missions to the red planet.
"We have not managed to contact Opportunity. With deep love and gratitude, we declare that his mission has been completed, "said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the US space agency.
Opportunity arrived on Mars in 2004, three weeks after another identical vehicle called Spirit, destined to the opposite side of the planet. His mission was to last three months, but in the end it has been extended for 15 years. At that time Opportunity He has performed maneuvers that had never been attempted, such as climbing to the edge of Victoria Crater, throwing himself inside and getting out again in 2008, or getting stuck in the sand and getting out thanks to NASA engineers on Earth. They were rehearsing the maneuvers with an exact replica of the vehicle. Opportunity Y Spirit belong to a light class of rovers Martians with a weight of about 180 kilos, a length of one and a half meters and powered by solar panels. His successor, the Curiosity, weighs almost a ton and carries a motor powered by plutonium.
One of the greatest contributions of Oppy has been finding chemical compounds in rocks that show that in the past the planet hosted large bodies of water where life could have arisen. The area that explored this vehicle was millions of years ago "very wet", "the kind of place where resistant microbes could live, a habitable zone," said Steve Squyres, principal investigator of the mission. Thanks to Spirit Y Opportunity "We have been able to analyze the oldest rocks on Mars" and "observe in them the marks of the presence of water", he added.
In May of last year a big storm clouded the sky over Opportunity, which prevented him from moving forward since his solar panels could not capture enough energy. The robot's last signal was received on June 10, 2018. Since then, NASA has made more than 1,000 recovery attempts, all unsuccessful, explained John Callas, head of the mission. "We were supposed to reach the end point of the mission at some point, but we never expected it to last that long," he said.
It's something that happened with your twin Spirit in 2010. The Opportunity it goes down in history as the robot that has been operating the longest on Mars. It is also one of the most distance traveled, 45.16 kilometers. The astrobiologist Alberto González Fairén, the only Spanish scientist who has worked in the team of Opportunity, He has written this article in Matter about the mission.