We kind of new this news would be coming today but now it’s official: NASA’s Opportunity rover mission is now officially over. The trusty rover has refused to wake back up and respond to signals sent from Earth, and there was really nothing left for NASA to do but pull the plug.
At a news conference this afternoon NASA’s Opportunity team announced that it was all over. It’s definitely a sad day, but it’s hard to be upset when you consider the incredible job Opportunity did during its lengthy Mars adventure, and NASA is more than pleased with everything it accomplished during its time on the Red Planet.
“For more than a decade, Opportunity has been an icon in the field of planetary exploration, teaching us about Mars’ ancient past as a wet, potentially habitable planet, and revealing uncharted Martian landscapes,” NASA’s Thomas Zurbuchen said in a statement.
“Whatever loss we feel now must be tempered with the knowledge that the legacy of Opportunity continues – both on the surface of Mars with the Curiosity rover and InSight lander – and in the clean rooms of JPL, where the upcoming Mars 2020 rover is taking shape.”
Indeed, Opportunity performed incredibly well for over a decade as it crawled across the Martian surface and conducted science on behalf of its handlers back on NASA.
When talking about Opportunity — and especially now that its mission has come to an end —it’s impossible to overstate how well it performed. The robot was originally designed to last just 90 days, and was built to travel just over 1,000 yards. By the time the rover was swallowed up by the dust storm that ultimately claimed its life, it had spent nearly 15 years in operation and tallied over 28 miles of travel.
The dust storm, which cut off light to Opportunity’s solar panels and likely doomed its batteries to death, made it impossible for the rover to continue on, and NASA hasn’t heard from it in over six months.
“We have made every reasonable engineering effort to try to recover Opportunity and have determined that the likelihood of receiving a signal is far too low to continue recovery efforts,” John Callas of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a statement.
Farewell, Opportunity. We’ll miss you.