After 15 years, the Mars Opportunity rover’s mission has ended

Posted February 15, 2019

Originally expected to last only 90 days, the Opportunity mission explored the Red Planet for almost 15 years, making key discoveries about Martian geology.

The NASA experts haven't heard a peep from the golf buggy-sized vehicle since a giant dust storm hit the Red Planet back in June of a year ago, covering the contraption's solar panels and cutting off contact. The Mars rover's team made its last attempt to contact Opportunity on Tuesday night, and it went unanswered.

The robot has been missing since the United States space agency lost contact during a dust storm in June past year and was declared officially dead on Wednesday, ending one of the most fruitful missions in the history of space exploration. The team at NASA had attempted to talk to Opportunity several times per week once the storm began to clear using the Deep Space Network, an global array of giant radio antennas supporting interplanetary spacecraft missions, and over 600 attempts were made without any response received.

During 14 years of intrepid exploration across Mars, it advanced human knowledge by confirming that water once flowed on the red planet - but NASA's Opportunity rover has analysed its last soil sample.

Despite NASA engineers' best efforts to get a response via radio channels, its last communication was on June 10, 2018 after more than 600 attempts since August. And it discovered evidence of water once existing on Mars, including finding a water-forming mineral called hematite and indications of ancient water in a crater, NASA said.

NASA's Opportunity rover far exceeded all expectations, but it's finally time to say goodbye.

"It is because of trailblazing missions such as Opportunity that there will come a day when our courageous astronauts walk on the surface of Mars", NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a release.

This image sent by NASA's Opportunity rover on January 7, 2015 shows a view from atop a Martian hill.

The rover has been silent for eight months, victim of one of the most intense dust storms in decades.

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

"This is a hard day", project manager John Callas said at an auditorium packed with hundreds of current and former members of the team that oversaw Opportunity and its long-deceased identical twin, Spirit.

Rover robots found signs of water in the first rocks they encountered on Mars, as rocks near the aircraft's landing site contained pearl-shaped rocks.

The rover, along with its partner, Spirit, landed on Mars in 2004 as part of the Mars Exploration Rover mission. If you could stand on the surface of Mars right now and gave upon Opportunity, you'd find that its instruments were deployed just days before last contact, ready to do science. "Opportunity's just been a workhorse.it's really a testament, I think, to how well the mission was designed and how careful the team was in operating the vehicle".

"Larry was the planning lead for the missions, so he actually figured out where the rover was going to go", said Greenhouse.

It is because of trailblazing missions such as Opportunity that there will come a day when our courageous astronauts walk on the surface of Mars.

"We tried valiantly over these last eight months to try to recover the rover, to get some signal from it", he said.

"If life ever did come to be on Mars, there ought to be evidence of it there", said Lori Glaze, acting director of NASA's Planetary Science Division.

Opportunity, NASA's six-wheeled Mars rover.