“Everything that goes up, need not come down,” may be the final bit of data gleaned from the Martian adventures of National Aeronautic and Space Administration-Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s rover, “Opportunity.”
Pasadena-based NASA/JPL released a Feb. 13 statement announcing that Opportunity’s 15-year rover mission is at an end after more than a thousand commands to restore contact failed to generate a response.
The last time Opportunity communicated was June 10.
“It is because of trailblazing missions such as Opportunity that there will come a day when our brave astronauts walk on the surface of Mars,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “And whey that day arrives, some portion of that first footprint will be owned by the men and women of Opportunity, and a little rover that defied the odds and did so much in the name of exploration,”
According to NASA/JPL, the rover exceeded its life expectancy by 60 times and traveled more than 28 miles across the Martian landscape before settling in at Perseverance Valley.
The rover has been on Mars since Jan. 24, 2004. It took seven months from its Florida launch to reach the Red Planet. It arrived 20 days after another rover, Spirit, landed on the other side of Mars, at Gusev Crater, where it traversed some five miles before wrapping up the sojourn in May 2011.
During all the movement, Opportunity transmitted some 217,000 images including 360-degree color panoramas. It exposed surfaces to reveal fresh mineral deposits and cleared 72 additional targets marked for further poking, prodding and measuring.
The primary objective of the rovers, according to NASA/JPL is to, “seek out historical evidence of the Red Planet’s climate and water at sites where conditions may once have been favorable for life. Because liquid water is required for life, as we know it, Opportunity’s discoveries implied that conditions at Meridiani Planum may have been habitable for some period of time in Martian history.”