NASA's Curiosity rover has taken its last selfie on Vera Rubin Ridge and descended toward a clay region of Mount Sharp. Engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, will use antennas like this one to transmit a new set of commands to the Opportunity rover in an attempt to compel the 15-year-old Martian explorer to contact Earth. The group then stitched the images together to form the resulting image, overlapping the images carefully so that the rover's robotic arm actually disappears, appearing as though the photo was taken by an external camera. The rover's drill, which it uses to pierce rock and obtain samples for further study, experienced extended downtime when a stabilizing mechanism broke. Unfortunately, the golf cart-sized robot can't have a proper celebration because it entered sleep mode in June when a global dust storm on Mars blocked out the sun so that it couldn't recharge its batteries.
Curiosity has spent its time on the Vera Rubin Ridge drilling into the Martian soil for samples to analyze, finishing its 19th sample collection on December 15th, 2018. It is now headed into the "clay-bearing unit", which sits in a trough just south of the ridge. Curiosity, which landed on Mars in 2012, was created to assess whether Mars ever had an environment capable to support microbes.
In the background, a regional dust storm is visible, a reminder of the challenges Curiosity faces as it does its pioneering work on Mars and an uncomfortable reminder of the potential fate of its cousin rover, Opportunity, which has been out of contact with NASA engineers and is feared lost after a planet-wide dust-storm disabled it in June of past year.
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"I haven't given up yet", Squyres told The New York Times.
Additionally, in case the rover's internal clock, which provides a timeframe for its computer brain, is offset, a command to reset the clock and respond via UHF has also been sent. Under the assumption that this is the end, it feels good.
NASA said time is of the essence for the rover team. It landed on the surface of Mars on January 24, 2004 to begin a 90-day mission to find convincing geological signs that water once flowed on the red planet.
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Opportunity and her twin, Spirit, launched in 2003.
Originally expected to travel a hundred yards, Opportunity had clocked in 28 miles before it, too, went silent in June. While Spirit's run on Mars effectively ended in 2011, Opportunity persisted and continued to make invaluable scientific discoveries.
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