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'It's Getting Dark': NASA Makes Final Attempt To Contact Missing Mars Rover 'Oppy'

NASA will make its final attempt to get Mars rover Opportunity to phone home on Wednesday night, after "Oppy" lost contact with Earth in a dust storm.

The rover has not been heard from since June last year when the storm blanketed the Red Planet, blocking sunlight and causing solar-powered Oppy to go into hibernation.

Despite more than 600 attempts to make contact since then, a dedicated team of scientists and engineers will officially call time on Oppy's mission on Wednesday night.

Opportunity was first launched alongside its twin robot Spirit in 2003. Together they landed on Mars the following year on a quest to determine the history of the water on the planet, NASA said on their website.

The golf-cart-sized rover was only ever designed to operate on Mars for 90 Martian days. But it defied all expectations and last month celebrated its 15-year anniversary on the planet.

Image: NASA/JPL/Cornell University

Project manager for Opportunity at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, John Callas, said it was a "testament a magnificent machine of exploration" and the dedicated team behind it.

"However, this anniversary cannot help but be a little bittersweet as at present we don’t know the rover’s status," Callas said at the time.

"We are doing everything in our power to communicate with Opportunity, but as time goes on, the probability of a successful contact with the rover continues to diminish."

On July 7, 2003, NASA launched Opportunity. Image: NASA

NASA believes the June dust-storm blocked out so much sunlight that the rover could no longer change its batteries.

Despite the windy season sweeping over the planet, which scientists hoped would clear the solar-powered rover, engineers have not been able to attempt a recovery mission with zero contact.

In September, there was a ray of hope when pictures from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter showed Opportunity in the slopes of the Red Planet's Perseverance Valley.

According to science reporter Jacob Margolis the chances of Oppy having survived these last few months are already slim, but he believes the winter season approaching on the Red Planet could serve"the final blow".

"Oppy’s emergency heaters will kick in and it’ll spend that energy warming its little robot heart, which contains its most important components," Margolis tweeted.

"It probably won't be enough, going into winter, to move around and survive."

Margolis also shared what's believed to be Oppy's final message to crews back home before it lost contact in June.

“My battery is low and it’s getting dark.” Oppy is believed to have sent.

READ MORE: NASA's Amazing Playlist To Wake Up Opportunity Rover On Mars

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News of the final contact attempt has devastated Oppy's fans with hundreds sharing messages of support to the NASA teams using the hashtag #OppyPhoneHome.

Scientists have attempted to transmit a new set of commands to Oppy to compel the Martian explorer to contact earth. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Oppy's twin Spirit successfully finished its mission in 2010.

While this will most likely be a tragic end for Oppy, the rover did complete its mission, with NASA in 2004 confirming it found a rock outcrop that showed parts of the planet were wet in the past.

NASA is expected to share its update on the final effort to recover Opportunity shortly after they attempt to make contact again on Thursday morning Australian time, as Oppy's fans around the world cross their fingers and look up to the skies in the hopes the rover will finally phone home again.

Featured Image: NASA

Contact the author: vgerova@networkten.com.au