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NASA’s Mars Rover Approaches its End

Opportunity Rover

NASA’s Opportunity rover was the third robotic wanderer to land on Mars. It was the second of twin rovers sent to the planet in 2003 as part of the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission. The first rover named Spirit became stuck in a sand trap in 2009. NASA officially announced its mission complete in 2011.

Spirit Rover: image source: NASA

The rover was launched on July 7, 2003, and it landed on Jan 25, 2004, in Meridiani Planum on Mars. Its original mission was intended to last just over three months, but the hardy rover continued to roam across the Martian soil for nearly 15 years. The rover traveled 28.06
miles (around 45 kilometers) which were the farthest distance achieved by any extra-planetary robot. With its companion rover Spirit, the two robots studied the Red Planet by exploring geology and dust devils and even finding a meteorite. First, NASA had anticipated that dust would be a problem and expected the stuff to gather on Opportunity’s solar arrays and choke off power in around three months . But perhaps it’s more accurate to say it bravely completed its mission. So yes, NASA declares the end of Opportunity’s mission. “These rovers actually have the finest batteries in the solar system,” Callas said.

Engineers hoped seasonal winds, running high between November 2018
and the end of January would clear the solar panels of dust, allowing for its recovery. In June 2018, a planet-encircling dust storm blotted out the sun over Opportunity for several months, weaning it off solar power and draining its batteries. Opportunity’s lasted 5,000 charge-discharge cycles
and remained at 85 percent capacity up until the robot’s demise.

NASA has learned so much about Mars from Opportunity, but it has also
learned about Opportunity from Opportunity. And the Mars 2020 rover will
soon land on the Red Planet, setting the stage for human exploration.

By: Karuna Aryal

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