RIP Opportunity: NASA Declares Mars Rover Dead After 15-Year Run

Opportunity's record-setting mission on Mars appears to have reached its end

Opportunity's record-setting mission on Mars appears to have reached its end

In its lifetime, Opportunity has explored two craters on the red planet, Victoria and Endeavour, as well as found several signs of water.

NASA and the European Space Agency will both be launching rovers to Mars in July, 2020, with the aim of finding past microbial life.

Its longevity and discoveries are a testament to Opportunity's design and construction. Then, it was on to Victoria crater, and from there Opportunity traveled through Marathon Valley, so named because that's where the rover crossed the "marathon" mark of 26.2 miles.

As Opportunity explored craters on Mars, it gathered important evidence to demonstrate that the planet in the ancient past was wet and warm enough to possibly sustain life, NASA said. The Washington Post quotes Squyres as saying that Mars "is a cold and desolate world today, but in the distant past, in the time that the rocks explored by Spirit and Opportunity were formed, it was a very different world". He recalled visiting Antarctica and seeing the huts of early explorers' preserved exactly as they were when the expeditions ended.

Engineers lost contact with the solar-powered vehicle, dubbed Opportunity, on June 10 of past year during an vast dust storm that encircled Mars. None had been answered.

It's time to say goodbye to Opportunity.

The notion that the briefing is expected to be a sad one rather than a "hey, maybe this little robot has a little longer to rove" one is bolstered by the fact that NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine will be on hand with the Mars Exploration Rover mission leadership and an engineer from the Mars 2020 rover team.

"I was there with the team as these commands went out into the deep sky, and I learned this morning that we had not heard back, and our beloved Opportunity remained silent", said Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA's associate administrator for science.

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And one day, NASA hopes rover tracks will be alongside human footprints on the Red Planet. But no response came, prompting NASA to conclude that she remains asleep, and her mission can now be honored as a resounding success.

Callas believes it is "good luck that we skirted so many possible storms" over the years.

Built to last for 90 sols, a fancy word for Martian solar days, the gallant instrument-laden bot plowed on for 5,351 sols, or about 15 Earth years.

Together with Spirit, the rover helped NASA better understand our celestial neighbor. The left side starts with a blindingly bright mid-afternoon sky, while the far-right side simulates Opportunity's June 2018 view during the global dust storm. Without sunlight, the rover was unable to recharge.

A dust storm that swept the planet in May 2018 is suspected to have blocked the machine from receiving sun rays to charge its solar panels. But after 15 years on the Martian surface, the rover has officially been declared dead by NASA.

Throughout that period, NASA's Deep Space Network continued to broadcast commands to the rover, which likely suffered a number of "faults" due to the prolonged lack of sunlight.

Also, this highlight reel from Opportunity's career quietly appeared online Tuesday with a description that includes an very bad lot of talk about the rover in the past tense.

NASA announced yesterday that the team would be putting in its final efforts to contact the rover last night, and would announce the results today.

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