Oppy’s Mars mission ends with its demise

An explorer that roamed Mars for more than 14 years and sent back images to indicate it was a wet planet in the distant past, was officially declared dead on Wednesday, agencies reported citing Nasa officials.

The announcement cameafter Nasa engineers at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, failed in their last attempt to revive the solar-powered Opportunity on Tuesday.

Researchers and engineers involved in the Mars programme mourned the passing of the six-wheeled rover affectionately called Oppy.

The engineers made more than 800 unsuccessful attempts to contact the rover since June last year. The last signal they received from Oppy was on June 10 from Mars’ Perseverance Valley when a storm encircling the red planet left a thick coat of dust on the robot’s solar panels blocking sunlight.

Winds that blow across the planet between November and January failed to remove the dust from the panels and the mission had to be discontinued on Wednesday, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said.

Opportunity landed on Mars in January 2004. Although designed to last only three months, it survived more than 14 years and travelled 45 kilometers  on Martian surface instead of the expected 1 kilometre.

It sent back some 217,000 images of Martian landscapes and close-up views of over rocks.

 Opportunity’s twin, Spirit, landed 20 days earlier on Mars. Like Oppy, its lifespan was just 90 days but the rover survived until May 2011.

NASA’s Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars in 2012, is still sending data back to scientists from the planet’s Gale Crater.

Another explorer, InSight Lander, which landed on Mars on Nov 26 last year, is studying temperature on the planet.