DR. SKY BLOG

Opportunity shattered: NASA Opportunity rover goes silent

Feb 20, 2019, 2:00 PM

This July 26, 2004 photo made available by NASA shows the shadow of the Mars Exploration Rover Oppo...

This July 26, 2004 photo made available by NASA shows the shadow of the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity as it traveled farther into Endurance Crater in the Meridiani Planum region of Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech via AP)

(NASA/JPL-Caltech via AP)

The Mars Opportunity rover has lasted for some 15 years, providing us with some amazing images and date from the red planet!

It arrived on the surface of Mars back on Jan. 25, 2004, with a near perfect roll into a small crater known as “Eagle.”

Opportunity, the sister spacecraft of the Spirit rover, has traveled an amazing 28.6 miles during its lifetime on the surface of the planet. The rover traveled farther than any other spacecraft of its kind and even shattered the previous record held by the Russian Lunokhod 2, of 24 miles.

NASA has tried many times over the past few months to see if the rover would come back to life, but the heavy dust that accrued on the solar panels must have made this impossible!

The last time that contact was made with Opportunity was back on June 10, 2018, just before a major dust storm.

Finally, on Feb. 13, NASA declared that the spacecraft was officially lost to both UHF and X band radio transmissions.

Opportunity was the first robotic spacecraft to detect sedimentary rock formations on another world, other than the Earth and made a very interesting 20 kilometer “drive” the Endeavor crater.

Once there, Opportunity gave us some amazing views and data about other rock formations and even a small meteorite located below the heat shield of Opportunity.

There is another back story to the Spirit and Opportunity rovers: Back in 2003, I had the opportunity to interview 9-year-old Sofie Collis, who won an essay contest which NASA had sponsored to name the rovers!

Sofie had a great essay and won the competition to name these rovers, back on June 8, 2003.

A brief portion of her essay reads like this: “I used to live in an orphanage. It was dark and cold and lonely. At night, I looked up at the sparkly sky and felt better. I dreamed I could fly there. In America, I can make all my dreams come true. Thank you for the ‘Spirit’ and the ‘Opportunity.'”

Her words are very profound and she was a pleasure to meet!

This week we mark the discovery of the planet we used to call planet Pluto!

On Feb. 18, 1930, astronomer Clyde Tombaugh discovered this tiny world, billions of miles from Earth.

That discovery was made right here in Arizona at the Lowell Observatory.

Tombaugh was my professor of Astronomy in New Mexico back in the late 1970s and I had spent some time with him.

I have established a special website to preserve the many radio interviews that I had with him, as well as my belief that Pluto should remain a major planet of the solar system.

You can check that out here.

To print your own monthly star chart, click here.

To view satellites/dates/times of passage, click here.

Listen to the Dr. Sky Show on KTAR News 92.3 FM every Saturday morning at 3 a.m.

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Opportunity shattered: NASA Opportunity rover goes silent