Space

Why it is impossible to save the rover "Opportunity" with the Mars rover "Curiosity"

On Wednesday, the US Aerospace AgencyNASA announced the official completion of the Opportunity Mars rover mission. The research robot stopped communicating in June 2018, after a global dust storm passed over the Red Planet. This week on Tuesday evening, NASA experts made a final attempt to contact the rover, but it was unsuccessful. The answer from the research robot on Earth did not wait. Apparently, the Opportunity solar panels were completely covered with dust, which interferes with the recharging of its batteries. The rover just ran out of energy to work.

By the time of his landing on the Red Planet inJanuary 2004, Opportunity was already far from the first rover that landed on Mars (and certainly will not be the last). But he was definitely the most enduring among all the rest. As NASA Director Jim Brydenstein noted, from the moment of landing, "the main task was to advance on the Martian surface at least 100 meters and work for 90 solos" (Martian days lasting about 40 minutes longer than the Earth's). But in the end, the car worked almost 5111 solo, and this is almost 15 years! During this time, "driven" by the Martian winds, which from time to time blew away the dust deposited on the surface of its solar batteries, the rover covered a distance of more than 40 kilometers of the Martian surface.

Is "Opportunity" completely lost and NASA can not save him, for example, with the help of another rover?

The most obvious candidate for the roleThe “lifesaver,” of course, is the Curiosity rover - a larger and “young” colleague who uses not solar batteries to power, but a radioisotope thermoelectric generator, which means that he is not afraid of any Martian storm. Couldn’t he be distracted from his work, sent to a “fellow” and see what actually happened, if possible, correcting the problem?

Photo of traces of NASA's Opportunity rover, taken by him at the crater Endeavor in June 2017

Unfortunately, the first and main problemlies in the distance. According to the map of Mars created by NASA, Curiosity and Opportunity are located 8,400 kilometers apart. Even in spite of the fact that the “Curiosity” suspension is much more efficient than that of “Opportyuniti”, it moves at a speed of only 4 centimeters per second - it will take an eternity to get to a colleague who is in trouble. Due to the complexity and diversity of the Martian soil, rovers must be remotely controlled from Earth. On average, Earth and Mars share a distance of 254 million kilometers, so on average, two-way messaging takes about 28 minutes and 12 seconds. In other words, to drive at least a few meters, the car will need several days.

The second problem is thatThe "curiosity" is a research, not a repair rover. The mission team would be faced with the colossal task of reconfiguring the rover's tools so that it could clean the Opportunity solar panels. And even in this case, no one would be ready to guarantee the success of such an adventurous operation. If something went wrong, NASA would risk losing two rovers at once.

Selfi rover "Curiosity"

Finally, the last problem is time. Even if by some miracle, the Curiosity could move across the surface of Mars with the agility of a high-speed train and was able to get to the Opportunity location, the approaching Martian winter would aggravate any possible damage that Opportunity currently has, not allowing it to warm enough.

In general, the story of Opportunity, unfortunately, ends here. Who knows, maybe when people will live on Mars, they will be able to find it and re-enable it?

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