NASA‘s Opportunity rover has captured the last bunch of individual pictures before shutting down completely on the surface of Mars.
The space agency released an image that is, in fact, a set of 354 separate pictures snapped over a period of 29 days before being declared ‘dead’ by NASA this year. The remote Martian setting is called ‘Perseverance Valley,’ and was the last thing the rover saw before completely turning off.
The individual images were captured by the rover’s Panoramic Camera (Pancam), starting with May 13th to June 10th. Combining pictures from three separate Pancam filters, which allow light focused on wavelengths of 753 nanometers (near-infrared), 535 nanometers (green) and 432 nanometers (violet), the panorama depicts the rover’s grave.
Reshaping the Understanding of Mars
Opportunity project manager John Callas from NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said that the final image embodies what made the rover such an outstanding mission of exploration and discovery.
‘To the right of center, you can see the rim of Endeavor Crater rising in the distance,’ he explained. ‘Just to the left of that, rover tracks begin their descent from over the horizon and weave their way down to geologic features that our scientists wanted to examine up close. And to the far right and left are the bottom of Perseverance Valley and the floor of Endeavour crater, pristine and unexplored, waiting for visits from future explorers.’
NASA stated that Opportunity was not expected to be functional 15 years, but mentioned that it helped enormously to their understanding of Mars’ geology and settings, preparing the groundwork for forthcoming robotic a manned expeditions to the Red Planet.
After eight months of trial and transmitting over a thousand commands in an effort to rebuild contact with the probe, NASA declared Opportunity’s expedition complete on February 13th, 2019.
With the shutdown of the Opportunity probe, NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers project also sees its end. The program was established in July 2013 as the space agency launched the twin robots. Spirit and Opportunity from Cape Canaveral in Florida. Spirit was declared dead in 2011, a year after it got stuck in the sand and lost touch with the ground engineers.
Thomas Zurbuchen, an associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, stated in a press conference in February: ‘I’m standing here with a sense of deep appreciation and gratitude, as I declare the Opportunity mission complete – and with it the Mars exploration mission as compete. I will never forget the amazing work that happened here; it transformed our understanding of the Red Planet.’
The Mars probe, known as ‘Oppy’ by NASA engineers, has exceeded the expectations of the team that’s managed it for all those years. It was created to last about 90 Martian days (90 sols), and be able to walk 1,000 meters (1,100 yards).
However, Oppy survived almost 15 years after landing on the Martian soil, extending its limits to travel approximately 30 miles to give scientists another understanding of the Red Planet. It encountered years of severe temperatures and radiation but ultimately gave in this past spring, when a dust storm the size of a planet surrounded Mars and covered the Sun.
This ended up a fatality for Opportunity, due to the fact that the probe depends entirely on solar energy to fuel its instruments.