13 February 2019 19:31
NASA is preparing to officially say goodbye to the Mars Opportunity rover, one of its greatest achievements, who's watch has apparently come to an end. In late January, Opportunity officially marked 15 years on the surface Mars, but it's been over seven months since the rover was last heard from on June 10, 2018. NASA believes that a planet-wide dust storm that blanketed Mars during that time blocked out the sun so thoroughly that the solar-powered Opportunity was unable to recharge. Repeated attempts to contact Opportunity have failed in recent months and days, and it's expected that NASA will finally call an end to the mission on Wednesday. Like its counterpart, Spirit, Opportunity's journey continued well beyond its planned 90-sol (days on Mars) mission, a monumental achievement.
Even now we treat the landing of a rover on Mars as a pretty big deal but it was an especially epic event 15 years ago — particularly because Opportunity's landing came just 20 days after the successful landing of the Spirit rover. As if a back-to-back rover landing wasn't impressive enough, Opportunity's touch down took place inside a small impact crater measuring just 66 feet across, a perfect place for Opportunity to search for traces of water on Mars. They're referred to as "blueberries" thanks to the color that NASA's false color images assign them and they're also good evidence that Mars was once a wet planet. Andrew Hill, the pilot whose plane crashed during the Shoreham airshow, killing 11 men, has dismissed claims that he ever had a "cavalier attitude" towards flying. Speaking for the first time in public since the crash in West Sussex, on 22 August 2015, Hill stood in the witness box as he gave evidence at his trial at the Old Bailey, London, on Wednesday.
Hill also started to fly a Harrier, an aircraft capable of vertical takeoff and landing, and won an award for his work and ideas on improving aircraft safety procedures, the court heard. A pilot whose Hawker Hunter jet crashed during the Shoreham Airshow, killing 11 men, has denied claims he had a "cavalier attitude" to flying. Speaking publicly for the first time about the 2015 crash, Andrew Hill was giving evidence at his trial at the Old Bailey on Wednesday. Prosecutors previously told the court the crash was due to "pilot error" and although Hill was normally considered "careful and competent", he had taken "risks" in the past, suggesting he sometimes played "fast and loose" with the rules and may have had a "more cavalier attitude to safety than was appropriate". Karim Khalil QC, defending, asked Hill if he was a "cavalier" pilot.
Hill was flying the Hawker Hunter jet in August 2015 when it tragically crashed onto the A27. The court also heard that Hill received an award for a computer program he wrote to try and increase safety in a newer version of the Harrier jet. The court heard that Hill joined a six-man display team of experienced pilots and began flying at airshows across the country. NASA relented, but as time passed, it became more likely that the mission was finally over. I know it's just a machine, but I'm not, and what I'm feeling is real: a bit of sadness at the idea that after 15 productive and incredible years of driving around Mars and poking at rocks and digging in the red dirt, the tough little robot Opportunity may have finally died.