A mission to Mars that was supposed to span three months but wound up lasting more than 14 years came to an end Wednesday when NASA and Jet Propulsion Laboratory officials said their final attempt to contact the rover Opportunity had failed.
The golf-cart-sized rover landed in a region of the Red Planet called Meridiani Planum on Jan. 24, 2004, sending its first signal back to Earth from the surface in the first minutes of Jan. 25. The rover’s original mission was to travel 1,100 yards and operate on the Red Planet for 90 Martian days. Instead, it wound up traveling more than 28 miles and logged its 5,000th Martian day back in February of 2018.
But mission managers lost contact with the rover on June 10, 2018, in the midst of a planet-wide dust storm on Mars. On Tuesday night, scientists at JPL in Pasadena made one final effort to regain contact with the rover, but were unable to get a signal.
That led to a formal declaration Wednesday morning that the mission was being officially declared over.
“This is a celebration of so many achievements,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said during a briefing at JPL. ” … When this little rover landed, the objective was to have it be able to move 1,100 yards and survive for 90 days on Mars. And instead, here we are 14 years later after 28 miles of travel, and today we get to celebrate the end of this mission.”
During its time on Mars, Opportunity explored rocks and soil on the Mars surface and collected data on the planet’s atmosphere. Opportunity is credited with uncovering signs that there was once water on the planet, providing the conditions to support life.
Opportunity and its twin rover, Spirit, launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in 2003. Spirit landed on Mars in 2004, and its mission ended in 2011.
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