NASA's Opportunity, Mars Mars, which was built to work for only three months but continues to run and move on the rocky red soil, was declared dead on Wednesday, 15 years after landing on the planet. ,
The six-wheeled vehicle, which helped gather critical evidence that the ancient Mars could be hospitable to life, was remarkably erupted eight months ago when it was finally condemned by the fierce dust storm.
Flight controllers have repeatedly tried to connect and send the last set of recovery commands on Tuesday evening, along with one last wake-up call, "I'll see" Billy Holidays, in a gloomy exercise that has caused tears to team members. – The eyes. There was no answer from the cosmos, only silence.
Thomas Zurbuheen, head of NASA's scientific missions, broke the news of the funeral at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Pasadena, California, declaring the death of "our favorite opportunity."
"This is a tough day," project manager John Callas said in an audience filled with hundreds of current and former team members who watched Opportunity and his long-deceased identical twin, Spirit. – Although it's a machine and say goodbye, it's still very hard and very moving, but we had to do it. We have reached this point. "
The two slow-moving golf carts landed on the opposite sides of the planet in 2004 for a mission that had to last 90 solos or days on Mars, which are 39 minutes longer than Earth's days.
Eventually, Opportunity experiences its twin for eight years and puts endurance and distance records that can last for decades. Continuing to pass, as communication ended in June, Opportunity walked 45 miles (45 km) and worked longer than any other ship in the history of space research.
Opportunity is a robot-geologist equipped with cameras and tools at the end of a mechanical hand for rock and soil analysis. His greatest achievement was to find, along with the Spirit, proof that the ancient Mars had water flowing on its surface and capable of maintaining microbial life.
Matthew Golombeck scientist said these missions are designed to help answer a "almost theological" question: Is there a form of life where the conditions are right or "are we really really happy?"
The two cars are pioneers in exploring the surface of other planets, says Laurie Glas, NASA's Planetary Science Executive Director.
She said that the Rivers gave us "the ability to really roll down to the rocks we want to see. Attach them to them, you can look at them closely with a microscopic camera, crush them a little, shake them, brush them a little, take the measurements, find out what the chemistry of these rocks is, and then say Oh, it was interesting. Now I want to go there. "
Opportunity explores the Mars' Perseverance valley, suitable when the sharpest dust storm has hit for decades and contact is lost. The storm was so intense that it hated the sky for months so that sunlight could not reach the solar panels of the Rover.
When the sky finally cleared, Opportunity stayed silent, his inner clock was probably so mixed that he did not know when to sleep or wake up to get commands. Flight controllers sent more than 1000 recovery commands, all in vain.
As the project costs reached about $ 500,000 a month, NASA decided that there was no point in continuing.
Callas said the last attempt to get in touch with the night before was a sad moment, with tears and a small number of applause when the operation team gave up. He said the team members did not even bother to wait to see if the word had come back from space – they knew it was hopeless.
Scientists believe this is the end of an era, now that Opportunity and Spirit have disappeared.
The possibility is the fifth of the eight spacecraft that successfully landed on Mars, all of NASA's. Only two of them still work: the Curiosity nuclear device that has been running since 2012 and the recently arrived InSight, which just this week puts a sensory, self-sensitive probe on the dusty red surface to bury the planet like a mole.
The next year, three more devices have to be launched – from the US, China and Europe.
NASA Administrator Jim Brittenstein said the main goal was to look for evidence of last or even current microbial life on Mars, and to find suitable locations for sending astronauts, perhaps in the 2030s.
"While it is sad to move from one mission to another, it really is part of a big goal," he said.
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