What will happen to the Opportunity Rover on Mars?

By Rafi Letzter
February 14, 2019, 2:23:14 PM EST


NASA's Opportunity Rover has died on Mars. The little solar-paneled robot apparently ran out of battery power during the Red Planet's awesome 2018 dust storm, and after one last attempt to contact it, NASA concluded yesterday (Feb. 13) that the far-off explorer is no more.

Which raises the question: What's going to happen to its body?

opportunity

NASA's Mars rover Opportunity reveals its shadow, seen on July 26, 2004, and snapped by the rover’s front hazard-avoidance camera. At the time, Opportunity was moving farther into Endurance Crater in the Meridiani Planum region of Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Many human artifacts wouldn't last very long beyond our protective biosphere. As Live Science reported previously, solar radiation has likely shredded the Tesla Roadster Elon Musk launched into space last year.

But Tesla Roadsters have lots of organic fibers and plastics in their bodies. Mars rovers are made of tougher stuff.

Jeff Moersch, a professor of planetary science at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a member of the Opportunity team, cautioned that he's not an expert in the rover's engineering. But he said that Opportunity does have some plastic bits that might eventually break down under the glare of the sun — its insulation, for example.

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