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OPPORTUNITY: THE MISSION OF A LIFETIME

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OPPORTUNITY: THE MISSION OF A LIFETIME

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On February 13th, the second of the twin space exploration rovers ended its mission. Opportunity was satellite rover that was deployed on July 7th, 2003, with a mission to further the intel on the surface level of Mars. Opportunity landed over half a year later on January 25, 2004, in which it examined and identified a meteorite that the heat sheild from its landing site. Opportunity’s initial mission was a 90-day exploration of the radius of the specific landing site chosen. 

The first twin of the set of rovers was Spirit; who landed on the opposite side of the planet from Opportunity. Both of the rovers carried out the same mission, huge success for NASA. The operation in total cost four hundred million dollars for construction, launch, and satellite. Unexpectedly, both rovers far exceeded previously expectations and prevailed through the 90-day project monumentally. NASA scientists projected that heavy dust storms would likely cover the solar panels with dust, blocking the rechargeable batteries. To their surprise, outburst of winds consistently uncovered the panels which allowed for them to recharge and press on past the expected operation plan. 

As time passed, the batteries efficiency began to deteriorate and the outdated hardware the rovers were equipped with began to falter. In late 2009, the Spirit rover got stuck in soft soil, and was unable to recharge its batteries since it was angled on a slope. On May 3, 2010, Spirits communications were lost and the rover was determined unobtainable. Spirit’s mission expectancy was far more than ever assumed, lasting over twenty times the original plan. 

Opportunity’s mission continued for quite a while after its twin; lasting nearly eight years past Spirit. Opportunity’s last command was to explore a vast range of craters. While in the craters, the 2018 Planetary Dust Storm covered its solar panels and wind was not able to reach the rover. In late 2018, Opportunity entered hibernation, and as of February 13th, NASA declared its mission complete since it had not responded to over 1,000 signals. Opportunity’s mission had exceeded its operation plan by over fourteen years and the data collected marked it as one of NASA’s greatest endeavors.

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OPPORTUNITY: THE MISSION OF A LIFETIME