A rover designed to last just 90 days on Mars has reached its demise after more than 14 years of roaming on the Red Planet, Nasa said Wednesday.
The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) declared the mission of the six-wheeled solar-powered rover Opportunity over, saying its final communication was received on June 10.
“After 800+ attempts to contact @MarsRovers Opportunity, today we’re announcing the end of a successful Martian mission,” Nasa administrator Jim Bridenstine tweeted. “Intended to explore the Red Planet for 90 days, Oppy outlived its mission lifetime by 14+ years.”
The rover, which landed on Mars in 2004, fell silent in June during a dust storm that encircled the planet.
Engineers continued trying to make contact, believing that dust on the rover’s solar panels might have been blocking sunlight.
They kept trying in recent months in hopes that winds that typically occur in the November-to-January time frame might help clean the rover’s panels.
Engineers in the Space Flight Operations Facility at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, made their last attempt to revive Opportunity on Tuesday to no avail.
John Callas, manager of the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) project at JPL, said that the team made “every reasonable engineering effort to try to recover Opportunity” and determined that the likelihood of receiving a signal is “far too low to continue recovery efforts”.
Bridenstine called the mission “one of the most successful and enduring feats of interplanetary exploration”.
It leaves behind “an incredible legacy of perseverance”, he said, predicting that because of its mission, astronauts would walk on Mars someday.
Nasa said the rover exceeded its life expectancy by 60 times and travelled a total of 45km, far more than the 1km that it was expected to travel.
Fittingly, it sent its last signal from Mars’s Perseverance Valley.
The rover’s primary objective was to seek historical evidence of the red planet’s climate and water at sites where conditions may once have been favourable for life.
It sent back more than 217,000 images, including 15 360° colour panoramas.
It also exposed the surfaces of 52 rocks to reveal fresh mineral surfaces for analysis and cleared other targets with a brush to prepare them for inspection.
Opportunity landed in the Meridiani Planum region of Mars on January 24, 2004, seven months after its launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Its twin, Spirit, landed 20 days earlier in the Gusev Crater on the other side of Mars.
Spirit logged almost 8km before its mission wrapped up in May 2011.
Nasa’s exploration of Mars continues with its InSight lander, which touched down on November 26, and the Curiosity rover, which has spent more than six years collecting data from the planet’s Gale Crater.
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