NASA’s Opportunity rover dies on Mars

NASA's Opportunity Rover Declared Dead! Twitterati Mourns The Loss of Robot Stationed on Mars

The golf cart-sized vehicle launched in 2003 with a twin, the Spirit rover, which landed on the opposite side of Mars. Jennifer Trosper, who served as project systems engineer for the Mars Exploration Rover mission and is playing a similar role in the 2020 Mars rover mission, suggested that future explorers might bring Opportunity and Rover back to Earth.

The six-wheeled robot last contacted Earth in June a year ago, but after a global dust storm hit, it went quiet.

Eight months after losing contact with the Opportunity Mars rover during a record dust storm, NASA managers Wednesday reluctantly called it quits, officially bringing one of the agency's most successful projects to an end after an improbable 15-year mission that captured the imaginations of millions. 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 worldwide array of giant radio antennas supporting interplanetary spacecraft missions, and over 600 attempts were made without any response received. Trundling along until communication ceased last June, Opportunity roamed a record 28 miles (45 kilometres) and worked longer than any other lander in the history of space exploration.

Update, Feb. 13, 10:10 a.m. PT: Adds NASA's last attempt to contact Opportunity on Tuesday.

Its greatest achievement was discovering, along with Spirit, evidence that ancient Mars had water flowing on its surface and might have been capable of sustaining microbial life.

"A robotic geologist on Mars, and an integrated science and engineering operations team here on Earth, all set out together on a mission of discovery", Watkins said."They didn't know what they would find, they didn't know which direction they would go, sometimes from one day to the next, and they made it work".

Mars-orbiting satellites spotted the rover after the storm ended, but mission scientists sent more than 835 recovery commands to Opportunity without any response.

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The community of researchers and engineers involved in the program were in mourning over the passing of the rover, known affectionately as Oppy.

Spirit and Opportunity landed a few weeks apart, in different Red Planet locales. Following its initial landing in 2004, the craft found evidence of past water on Mars, accumulating evidence of a rich, potentially habitable past on Mars. This, in turn, has fueled what we look for on Mars- which is to say, water and clues to if life could ever have arisen on Mars. "Opportunity's just been a's really a testament, I think, to how well the mission was designed and how careful the team was in operating the vehicle".

Although the rover was expected to last 90 days, the device has lasted an impressive 15 years.

Opportunity was the fifth of eight spacecraft to successfully land on Mars, all belonging to NASA.

By early last June, the rover's location, in "Perseverance Valley" on the western rim of the crater Endeavour, had been engulfed by a growing dust storm.

Steve Squyres, the Cornell University planetary scientist who was principal investigator for the Mars Exploration Rovers, divided Opportunity's mission into two parts. Opportunity was created to explore and take pictures of Mars' Gale crater - thought to once have been a giant lake - and look for signs the planet once held life.