Nasa declared the 15-year mission of the veteran Mars rover Opportunity finally over on Wednesday, crediting the robot as having “transformed our understanding of our planet”.
The golf buggy-sized vehicle last made contact with Earth eight months ago, after being caught in a global dust storm.
Announcing the mission’s end, Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at Nasa, said the rover had “remained silent” after a last-ditch effort to contact Opportunity on Tuesday.
Despite the loss, the mood at the press conference at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, was one of celebration on Wednesday.
“I’m standing here with a sense of deep appreciation and gratitude to declare the Opportunity mission as complete,” Zurbuchen said.
“It transformed our understanding of our planet, everything we do and think about in our planetary neighborhood with Mars and elsewhere relates to the research from that and the engineering breakthroughs that came from that.”
Opportunity landed on Mars in January 2004 shortly after its twin – a rover called Spirit. Together, the pair were part of Nasa’s Mars Exploration Rover programme. However, the Spirit got stuck in soil in 2009 and was declared defunct in 2011.
By contrast, Opportunity has continued to trundle over the surface of Mars and send back data to Earth, acting as a sort of remote geologist.
John Callas, Mars Exploration Rover project manager, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said that epic journey had been due to a “phenomenal” effort and had “greatly expanded our understanding of the red planet”.
Over the 15 years it has spent on Mars, Opportunity has clocked up more than 45km (28 miles) – despite being designed to travel only 1,006 metres and last 90 Martian days.
“We had expected that dust falling out of the air would accumulate on the solar rays and eventually choke off power,” Callas said.
“What we didn’t expect was that wind would come along periodically and blow the dust off the arrays.
“It allowed us to survive not just the first winter, but all the winters we experienced on Mars.”
Opportunity was finally done in by a “historic” dust storm, said Abigail Fraeman, MER deputy project scientist. Fraeman said the storm had turned the sky so dark that Opportunity “couldn’t see the sun and the solar panels couldn’t recharge the battery”.
During its mission, the rover found tiny iron-rich spheres nicknamed “blueberries” at the crater that suggested a wet past, while its analyses of clay minerals near the Endeavour crater confirmed parts of Mars were once covered in neutral water, and could have been a habitable environment. It also came across the first meteorite ever to be discovered on another planet. In addition, the rover has sent back stunning images, including capturing a Martian “dust devil” twisting across the planet’s surface and panoramic shots that provided breathtaking views of Martian craters.
Another aspect of Opportunity’s legacy is the number of people who were inspired to pursue careers in science through following the rover’s trek, Fraeman said.
“There really are hundreds if not thousands of students who, just like me, witnessed these rovers and followed along their mission, from the images released to the public over the last 15 years and then because of that went on to pursue careers in science.”
“It has been a fantastically successful mission which has completely outlived its shelf life,” said Professor Andrew Coates, a planetary scientist at University College London’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory.
“One of those core things about Opportunity was it landed in this crater which was in sight of sedimentary types of rocks and that was the first time that sort of thing had been seen on Mars,” said Coates. “People compared it at the time to an interplanetary hole in one.”
Professor John Bridges from the University of Leicester, who is part of the team working on Nasa’s continuing Curiosity rover project and the European Space Agency’s ExoMars mission, said Opportunity had a fantastic roll call of achievements. He added that with its twin the rover had been key in changing the idea of Mars from being a lump of basalt in space to having a very different geological history, showing the importance of lakes and other features.
“It really sort of [turned] upside down our view of Mars and how it has evolved,” he said. “It was showing us what the Mars crust is made of.”
Coates, who is also lead scientist for the panoramic camera instrument on the ExoMars rover – recently named Rosalind Franklin – which is set to be launched in 2020, said the discoveries of Opportunity, and later the Curiosity rover, have been important for the development of new missions.
“The next step now of course is to drill and look for signs of life, and that is exactly what we are doing with the ExoMars rover, drilling up to 2 metres underneath the surface,” he said.
The final attempt at communication with Opportunity on Tuesday night was, it seems, an emotional affair. Dr Tanya Harrison, a planetary scientist who worked on the mission, tweeted: “There were tears. There were hugs. There were memories and laughs shared.”
Mike Seibert, who was also part of the team, paid tribute to the rover nicknamed “Oppy”, saying “Goodbye old friend” and noting that the rover was the longest lasting surface mission yet.
Coates said Opportunity’s demise was bittersweet. “It is a matter of both celebration for what it was able to achieve and in the broad context of Mars exploration, but also tinged with sadness, losing an old friend.”
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
Former Potential Suspects In Alleged Jussie Smollett Attack Claim Attack Was Faked
UPDATE: Smolletts’ attorneys released a statement countering the claims of the two brothers.
“As a victim of a hate crime who has cooperated with the police investigation, Jussie Smollett is angered and devastated by recent reports that the perpetrators are individuals he is familiar with. He has now been further victimized by claims attributed to these alleged perpetrators that Jussie played a role in his own attack. Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying.
“One of these purported suspects was Jussie’s personal trainer who he hired to ready him physically for a music video. It is impossible to believe that this person could have played a role in the crime against Jussie or would falsely claim Jussie’s complicity.
“Jussie and his attorneys anticipate being further updated by the Chicago Police Department on the status of the investigation and will continue to cooperate. At the present time, Jussie and his attorneys have no inclination to respond to “unnamed” sources inside of the investigation, but will continue discussions through official channels.”
Chicago (CBS) — Two brothers who were questioned and released by Chicago police investigating the Jussie Smollett attack did play a role in the crime.
Sources say at least one of the brothers bought the rope used in the incident at Smollett’s request. The sources also say the “Empire” actor paid for the rope, which was purchased at the Crafty Beaver Hardware Store the weekend of Jan. 25.
The brothers were paid $3,500 before leaving for Nigeria and were promised an additional $500 upon their return.
They left for Nigeria later in the day on Jan. 29 after the attack.
The sources say plain red hats worn by the brothers were bought at an Uptown beauty supply store and that the attack was supposed to happen before Jan. 29.
Smollett claims two men attacked him in Streeterville early Jan. 29 as he was heading to his apartment. He said they yelled racial and homophobic slurs at him, poured a chemical on him and put a rope around his neck.
The brothers are now cooperating with police.
Since being released Friday night, the brothers have been staying in an undisclosed location.
Chicago police spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi said:
“We can confirm that the information received from the individuals questioned by police earlier in the Empire case has in fact shifted the trajectory of the investigation. We’ve reached out to the Empire cast member’s attorney to request a follow-up interview.”
Developing story, more to come…
Colin Kaepernick Reaches Settlement With NFL Over Kneeling Protest Fallout
- Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid settle collusion grievance with NFL
- Parties have resolved grievances subject to confidentiality pact
The NFL and attorneys for Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid jointly announced on Friday afternoon they have settled a complaint of collusion by the players, who claimed the league’s owners blackballed them because they had protested by kneeling during the pre-game playing of the national anthem.
“For the past several months, counsel for Mr Kaepernick and Mr Reid have engaged in an ongoing dialogue with representatives of the NFL,” the statement read. “As a result of those discussions, the parties have decided to resolve the pending grievances. The resolution of this matter is subject to a confidentiality agreement so there will be no further comment by any party.”
An arbitrator had been expected to rule over the next few weeks on Kaepernick’s grievance against the league, which he filed in 2017 under the collective bargaining agreement. The former San Francisco 49ers quarterback alleged the owners conspired to keep him off the field because of his protests to draw attention to racial inequality and social injustice issues.
The filing said the NFL and its owners “have colluded to deprive Mr Kaepernick of employment rights in retaliation for Mr Kaepernick’s leadership and advocacy for equality and social justice and his bringing awareness to peculiar institutions still undermining racial equality in the United States”.
The NFLPA released a statement on Friday in support of Kaepernick and Reid, acknowledging they did not know the terms of the agreement as the players employed outside counsel.
“We continuously supported Colin and Eric from the start of their protests, participated with their lawyers throughout their legal proceedings and were prepared to participate in the upcoming trial in pursuit of both truth and justice for what we believe the NFL and its clubs did to them,” the statement said. “We are glad that Eric has earned a job and a new contract, and we continue to hope that Colin gets his opportunity as well.”
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Returns To The High Court After Bout With Cancer
WASHINGTON, Feb 15 (Reuters) – U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is back at the court after missing oral arguments in January as she recovered from lung cancer surgery at home, a court official said on Friday.
Ginsburg, who will turn 86 in March, had been working from home and participating and voting in cases since her December surgery by reading argument transcripts and case briefs. She attended the justices’ closed-door conference to discuss cases on Friday.
While Ginsburg was expected to attend the next session of oral arguments beginning on Feb. 19, court officials could not confirm she would be on the bench next week.
Last month, the court announced that Ginsburg’s recovery was on track and that there was “no evidence” of remaining disease.
Ginsburg, who joined the court in 1993, underwent a surgical procedure called a pulmonary lobectomy on Dec. 21 at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York to remove two cancerous nodules in her left lung. She was released from the hospital on Dec. 25.
Ginsburg missed oral arguments in January for the first time in her lengthy career on the court, fueling speculation about her ability to continue in the job. (Reporting by Andrew Chung; editing by Jonathan Oatis)
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