NASA Declares 'Mission Complete' For Opportunity Rover

A heavy spacecraft would need rockets for braking and steering but could also be flown to steer itself through lift

NASA has finally plugged the plug on its Mars Opportunity rover, which has been silent on the Red Planet's surface for eight months.

The golf-cart-sized rover was only ever created to operate on Mars for 90 Martian days.

"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".

Then last June, a thick dust storm clouded the martian atmosphere, sharply reducing the sunlight reaching the rover's solar panels.

Flight controllers made numerous attempts to contact it and sent one final series of recovery commands Tuesday night, accompanied by one last wake-up song, Billie Holiday's "I'll Be Seeing You". There was no response from space, only silence. Rolling along until communication ceased last June, Opportunity roamed a record 28 miles around Mars and worked longer than any other lander.

Opportunity was part of the NASA's larger Mars Exploration Rover mission, and was sent to space in 2004 alongside its twin rover, Spirit, carrying pieces of the World Trade Center.

As Opportunity explored craters on Mars, it gathered evidence to demonstrate the planet in the ancient past was wet and warm enough to possibly sustain life, NASA said. Opportunity was never expected to travel more than 1 kilometer but outlived its original mission life expectancy 60 times over.

This Jan. 4, 2018 photo made available by NASA shows a view from the front Hazard Avoidance Camera of the Opportunity rover on the inboard slope of the western rim of Endeavour Crater on the planet Mars.

NASA announced Wednesday that its Mars land rover Opportunity has died after 15 years. This storm in particular was one of the thickest NASA has ever seen.

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Plus, it had a good run - created to operate for 90 Martian days and cover just 1,000 meters on the planet, Opportunity went above and beyond, covering around 28 miles and sending information back for 15 solid years. Steve Squyres, a professor at Cornell University in the United States studying the history of water on the Red Planet, called Mars a "dry, desolate world". "We just can't leave her up there", someone wrote, while another user declared that he needs to "borrow a rocket" to "turn this little rover back on".

Opportunity on the surface of Mars.

"Larry was the planning lead for the missions, so he actually figured out where the rover was going to go", said Greenhouse.

Nasa's Opportunity on Mars.

"But what I suppose I'll cherish most is the impact Opportunity had on us here on Earth".

And NASA's InSight spacecraft, the first robotic lander created to study the deep interior of a distant world, touched down safely on the surface of Mars in November with instruments to detect planetary seismic rumblings never measured anywhere but Earth.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the overriding goal is to search for evidence of past or even present microbial life at Mars and find suitable locations to send astronauts, perhaps in the 2030s.

Opportunity, NASA's six-wheeled Mars rover.

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