Opportunity Rover – the robot that stayed on Mars says it’s final Goodbye
It explored the red plains of Mars for more than 14 years, snapping photos and revealing astonishing glimpses into its distant past. “It is therefore that I am standing here with a sense of deep appreciation and gratitude that I declare the Opportunity mission as complete,” Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate
administrator for science, said at a news conference.
The golf cart-size rover was designed to last only three months but proved itself to be an unexpected endurance athlete. It travelled more than the distance of a marathon when less than half a mile would have counted as success.
The steady stream of photographs and data from Opportunity — and from its twin, Spirit, which persisted until 2010 — brought Mars closer to people on Earth. Because the rovers operated for so much longer than expected, NASA has now had a continuous robotic presence on Mars for most of the century.
That streak seems likely to not end soon. A larger, more capable rover, Curiosity, arrived in 2012, and NASA is planning to launch another in 2020. On Tuesday night, NASA made one last call to Opportunity, which was silenced last summer by a giant dust storm. There was no reply. “It was an incredibly somber moment,” said Tanya Harrison, a member of the mission’s science team who was present in Pasadena, California, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory during the final attempt to reach the rover. “Just waiting for the inevitable, basically.” “There had been a lot of talking and laughing and whatnot between crying and hugging,” Dr. Harrison said. “As soon as that moment happened, it just went silent.”