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NASA’s Opportunity rover has been lost on Mars as its batteries die months after a raging dust storm

Nasa officials are finally coming to terms with the fact the Opportunity rover could be lost forever. 

The rover, which is located on the rim of Mars’ Endeavour Crater, has been out of contact for four months after a raging dust storm encircled the red planet. 

Skies eventually cleared by mid-September, when America’s space agency began a six-week listening programme to try and receive data from their device.

However, that’s already nearing expiration and the solar-powered robot remains dormant – with scientists set to stop trying to contact it in the coming days. 

Nasa’s Opportunity rover has finally been lost on Mars four months after a raging dust storm encircled the red planet, the space agency has said

Dr Lori Glaze, acting director of Nasa’s planetary science division, suggested that attempts to recover the rover by sending daily signals would be coming to an end.

‘The batteries may be getting too cold and that may be too much for ‘the little rover that could’,’ Dr Glaze told the Times. 

Last week Dr Glaze said that efforts to revive the rover would only continue for ‘another week or two’. 

‘It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions the last couple of days’, said Mike Staab, a systems engineer and flight director at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

‘We’re all just trying to do what we believe is right’, he said.

Nasa said it ‘not set any deadlines’ for giving up contact. 

In desperate attempts to revive it engineers have played it songs such as played it songs such as Wham!’s Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go.

Earlier this month it was revealed that even if it does come back on, Nasa is anticipating ‘complexity’ with the rover’s mission clock.

Without enough energy to sustain its mission clock, which is thought to be the only instrument still working, the rover won’t know what time it is. 

So far, Opportunity has exceeded its expected lifespan many times over. 

Opportunity fell silent back in June, with no way to power its solar battery as dust continued to block out the sun. The animation shows how the rover (centre) was directly in the path of the raging storm    

WHAT IS THE OPPORTUNITY ROVER?

NASA launched the Opportunity rover as part of its Mars Exploration Rover program in 2004. 

It landed on Mars’ Meridiani Planum plain near its equator on January 25, 2004.

Opportunity was only supposed to stay on Mars for 90 days, but has now lasted an astounding 14 years. 

In its lifetime, Opportunity has explored two craters on the red planet, Victoria and Endeavour, as well as found several signs of water. 

It survived a bad dust storm in 2007 and is now being closely watched to see if it can survive a massive storm that has an estimated opacity level of 10.8, a sharp increase from the earlier storm’s 5.5 tau. 

NASA has made several updates to the spacecraft since it landed on Mars, such as its flash memory. 

Both Opportunity and its twin, Spirit, were designed to last only 90 days on the Martian surface, with the expectation that the planet’s extreme winters and dust storms could cut their mission short. 

Nasa launched the Opportunity rover as part of its Mars Exploration Rover program in 2004.

It landed on Mars’ Meridiani Planum plain near its equator on January 25, 2004.

The inhospitable red planet: Without enough energy to sustain its mission clock, which is thought to be the only instrument still working, the rover won't know what time it is

The inhospitable red planet: Without enough energy to sustain its mission clock, which is thought to be the only instrument still working, the rover won’t know what time it is

Opportunity's panoramic camera (Pancam) took the component images for this view from a position outside Endeavor Crater during the span of June 7 to June 19, 2017. It is one of the last images the rover sent.

Opportunity’s panoramic camera (Pancam) took the component images for this view from a position outside Endeavor Crater during the span of June 7 to June 19, 2017. It is one of the last images the rover sent.

The rover has lasted nearly 15 years: It last communicated on June 10 before being forced into hibernation by the growing dust storm.

In its lifetime, Opportunity has explored two craters on the red planet, Victoria and Endeavour, as well as found several signs of water.  

Nasa has made several updates to the spacecraft since it landed on Mars, such as its flash memory.

HOW WILL NASA AND ESA BRING MARTIAN SOIL BACK TO EARTH?

NASA and ESA are teaming up to bring a piece of Mars back to Earth. 

While it won’t be easy, scientists say the concept is within reach.

The plan will begin with NASA’s 2020 Mars rover, which will collect Martian soil in up to 31 pen-sized canisters.

ESA’s ExoMars rover, which is set to reach the red planet in 2021, will simultaneously be drilling deep into the surface to look for evidence of life.

ExoMars will drill as far down as two meters.

The second step of the mission will launch a ‘fetch rover,’ which will retrieve the samples from the other rovers.

Then, it would return to its lander and place the samples in a small rocket dubbed a Mars Ascent Vehicle.

This will launch the container holding the samples to Mars orbit, where it will be collected by a spacecraft – which would require its own separate launch from Earth.

After gathering the samples and loading them to an Earth entry vehicle, the craft would return to Earth with the Martian soil.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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