What’s next for Mars exploration? That’s the question after NASA announced Wednesday its longest-running rover on the “Red Planet” has been pronounced dead. NASA scientists had been trying to contact the “Opportunity” for months after it got caught in a dust storm eight months ago.
They’ve finally given up – ending the rover’s almost 15-year stint on the planet. Scientists that work on Mars rovers say valuable lessons were learned. “There’s a tremendous scientific and exploration legacy with Opportunity but there’s also this other intangible and that is Opportunity made us Martians. And what I mean by that is since January of 2004 there’s been a team of people that go to work every day on Mars,” said John Callas, Mars Exploration Rover Project Manager.
Experts say now, they imagine the “Opportunity” will just stay on Mars, collecting dust. Right now, NASA’s “Insight” lander and “Curiosity” rover are both still exploring Mars. In July 2020, another NASA rover and a European Space Agency rover will both launch.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX is also making headway on plans to explore Mars. NASA and SpaceX are planning to launch a crew capsule to Mars on Tuesday, March 2, 2019 with no one on board. If all goes well, NASA astronauts will take a test flight in July. It would be the first launch of U.S. astronauts into orbit – from U.S. soil – since NASA’s shuttle program ended in 2011.