NASA has officially ended its quest to revive the Mars rover Opportunity after losing contact with the device last June. The rover has now ignored more than 830 rescue commands beamed from mission control. NASA declared the rover’s life officially over and its mission complete on Wednesday.
NASA’s Opportunity rover was the third robotic rover to land on Mars. It was the second of twin rovers sent to the planet in 2003 as part of the Mars Exploration Rover mission. The rover landed on Mars on Jan. 25, 2004.
Opportunity exceeded its makers’ wildest ambitions. Its original mission was intended to last just over three months. At the time of its demise, it had roamed more than 28 miles across the Martian surface for approximately 5,515 Earth days. That is just over 15 years.
The audacious little rover changed our understanding of the Martian landscape and history. Opportunity provided the first temperature profile of the Martian atmosphere and helped increase scientists’ knowledge of Martian geology. It studied more than 100 impact craters, discovered evidence of water on the Red Planet, and took a photograph of the mysterious Martian “dust devils” that occasionally form on the surface.
A massive dust storm enveloped Opportunity on June 10, 2018, preventing its solar panels from storing power. A last-ditch effort to establish contact via the Deep Space Network was a failure. Its final resting spot is on the western edge of the Endeavour crater it was exploring.
NASA’s Curiosity rover is now the only active rover on the Martian surface. Opportunity’s companion rover, Spirit, became stuck in a sand trap in 2009 and had its mission declared over in 2011. There are two planned launches of rovers going to Mars in 2020. NASA is sending up another rover and the European Space Agency is sending up a rover it has named Rosalind Franklin, after a scientist renown for advancing our understanding of the molecular makeup of DNA and RNA.