Night Vision: Mars—Celebrating Opportunity

Posted February 13, 2019 - by Brandon Crowley

Share on Facebook Tweet This Google Plus Email this

It looks like time is finally up for the toughest little robot on Mars. NASA’s Opportunity rover has been out of communication since June 10th of last year when Martian skies were darkened for months by a global dust storm. Even though conditions have mostly cleared up, Opportunity has failed to respond to repeated communication requests. It’s likely that the rover’s solar panels are completely coated in dust, cutting off the craft’s only source of power.

Artist's Concept of Rover on Mars.
An artist’s concept of the rover on Mars. Opportunity lasted almost a decade and a half beyond its original mission parameters. (Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

While Opportunity’s end is a little sad, its mission has been far from disappointing. Originally scheduled for a mission spanning just 90 Martian rotations (a bit over 92 Earth days), the rover continued operations beyond that many times over. Last month marked the craft’s 15th year on the red planet.

During its mission, Opportunity and its twin rover Spirit (which was active until 2010) generated a wealth of data about Martian geology and atmosphere, including significant evidence for large bodies of surface water in Mars’ ancient past. Opportunity's journey may be over, but its legacy will carry forward through the next generation of robots such as Curiosity and InSight, as well as the future “Mars 2020” rover.

This week’s Night Vision is all about Mars.  We’ll celebrate the valiant discoveries of rovers past and look with anticipation at the discoveries yet to come.

Join us on Thursday, February 14th or Saturday, February 16th at 6:45 PM. Tickets are just $2.00 per person for the public, and free for members of Clark Planetarium. Get your tickets now.