NASA has finally pulled the plug on the Mars Opportunity Rover, which lost contact with the space agency eight months ago.
The Opportunity spacecraft landed on Mars back in 2004, but after over 14 years of exploring the Red Planet, the $400 million solar-powered rover suddenly went silent following a massive dust storm. At the time, dust enveloped Mars and prevented sunlight from reaching its surface. NASA received the last signal from Opportunity on June 10, 2018.
On Tuesday, NASA tried one last time to communicate with the Opportunity rover, but the space agency did not receive any signals in response. Following their final attempt, NASA finally gave up on the rover and announced that its mission is over.
“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,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said in a press release. “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.”
The Opportunity rover was sighted by the HiRISE high-resolution camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter three months after it went silent. An image of the rover taken Sept. 20 by the camera showed that it was in Mars’ Perseverance Valley. However, it seemed to have lost its capacity to communicate with NASA.
After declaring Opportunity’s mission complete, NASA brought back some of the best images taken by the rover since it landed on Mars’ surface on Jan. 24, 2004.
Another photo shared on NASA’s website showed a false-color panorama of the Pilinger Point in the Endeavour Crater. The space agency also shared an image of the Mars surface taken by the Opportunity on its 2,407th day on Martian soil.
See other images captured by the Mars rover during its 14 years of exploration here.
Aside from its incredible images of Mars’ surface, the Opportunity also made several significant discoveries about the Red Planet, including evidence that a primitive Mars had water flowing on its surface and may have been capable of hosting microbial life.