Touted as one of the most successful and enduring feats of interplanetary exploration, the mission of NASA’s Opportunity comes to an end after 15 years of exploring the surface of Mars. It was instrumental in laying the groundwork for NASA return to the Red Planet.
According to a NASA press release, “The Opportunity rover stopped communicating with Earth when a severe storm blanketedits location in June 2018. After more than a thousand commands to restore contact, engineers in the Space Flight Operations Facility at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) made their last attempt to revive Opportunity to no avail. The solar-powered rover’s final communication was received June 10.”
The rover landed in the Meridiani Planum region of Mars on January 24, 2004, after a seven-month journey launched from Cape Canaveral. The original mission parameters wrapped up in 2011.
Originally designed to last just 90 Martian days and to travel just 1,100 yards, Opportunity vastly surpassed all expectations in its endurance, scientific value and longevity. In addition to exceeding its life expectancy by 60 times, the rover traveled more than 28 miles (45 kilometers) by the time it reached its most appropriate final resting spot on Mars – Perseverance Valley.
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,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.
“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.”
Rod is a blogger, writer, filmmaker, photographer, daydreamer who likes to cook. Rod produces and directs the web series, CUPIC: Diary of an Investigator. He is also the editor, producer and administrator of TNC Network.