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NASA rover finally bites the dust on Mars after 15 years

13 February 2019

However Opportunity lasted a lot longer than this - 15 years - and set a roaming record of 28 miles (45km).

A dust storm that swept the planet in May 2018 is suspected to have blocked the machine from receiving sun rays to charge its solar panels.

NASA will on Tuesday (US time) issue a final series of recovery commands, on top of more than 1,000 already sent.

Instead, the rover has persisted for 15 years, sending back incredible data and photos from Mars to help unravel the Red Planet's secrets.

The mars rover, named "Opportunity", was sent to explore the planet by the space team in 2004.

One of Opportunity's biggest achievements was identifying water once flowed on the red planet.

Nasa's Opportunity on Mars was to search for clues about the history of water.

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The agency is expected to announce that this final attempt was unsuccessful at the press conference today. Spirit was pronounced dead in 2011 a year after it got stuck in sand and communication ceased.

Both outlived and outperformed expectations, on opposite sides of Mars.

The six-wheeled vehicle was built to operate just three months.

They were rocketed from Cape Canaveral a month apart in 2003.

"And when that day arrives, some portion of that first footprint will be owned by the men and women of Opportunity, and a little rover that defied the odds and did so much in the name of exploration".

Project manager John Callas said: "It's just like a loved one who's gone missing, and you keep holding out hope that they will show up and that they're healthy".

NASA shows the tool turret at the end of the the Opportunity rover's robotic arm on the southern side of "Marathon Valley", which goes through the western rim of Endeavour Crater on January 5, 2016.

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Now that Opportunity has died, she says, her days will be different.

Inspired, Dr Fraeman went on to become a planetary scientist, joined NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and ended up deputy project scientist for Opportunity.

The experience inspired her to pursue a career at JPL; Fraeman is now a deputy project scientist on the Mars exploration rover project, and works with Opportunity nearly daily.

Global dust storms tend to happen every few years and "we had gone a long time without one".

Opportunity and Spirit were built to last 90 days, but Opportunity far exceeded that number, roving for almost 15 years.

Mission team members have been trying to rouse the rover since June and listening for any possible signals.

Now it is becoming colder and darker on Mars, further dimming prospects.

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When the sky finally cleared, the rover remained silent, its internal clock possibly so scrambled that it no longer knew when to sleep or wake up to receive commands. It's especially frustrating, according to Callas, not knowing precisely why Opportunity-or Spirit-failed.

NASA rover finally bites the dust on Mars after 15 years