NASA declares 'mission complete' for Opportunity rover

Cesar Mills
February 14, 2019

Spirit and Opportunity moved, of course, over surprising spans of time and space.

Flight controllers tried numerous times to make contact, and sent one final series of recovery commands Tuesday night, along with one last wake-up song, Billie Holiday's "I'll Be Seeing You", in a somber exercise that brought tears to team members' eyes. The agency confirmed today that the mission has officially ended.

The agency held a news conference to detail the results of recovery efforts since a dust storm encircled Mars a year ago.

"I am standing here with a sense of deep appreciation and gratitude, [as] I declare the Opportunity mission as complete, and with it the Mars Exploration rover's mission as complete", said Thomas Zurbuchen, an associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, during a livestream of the announcement.

"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 [NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory], where the upcoming Mars 2020 rover is taking shape".

It last broadcast on June 10, with Nasa scientists speculating that Opportunity's clock may have become scrambled during its outrage, disrupting its "sleep" cycle and draining its batteries. Dust has blocked out the sunlight, and even the expected winds from November through January haven't helped to clear Opportunity's sensors and panels.

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.

The team is grateful for the long mission but sad to say goodbye. "Science is a team sport, and that's what we're celebrating today".

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"My fondest hope for that aspect of our mission is that there were some kids - 6, 7, 8 years old - watching" the Spirit and Opportunity landing events back in 2004, Squyres said.

The community of researchers and engineers involved in the programme were in mourning over the passing of the rover, known affectionately as Oppy.

The MER mission yielded scientists with a wealth of information, shedding light on the history of Mars.

Opportunity was created to last only 90 Martian days and travel 1,100 yards.

First, it landed on Eagle crater, a 22-metre-long ditch, and found tiny spherical structures, nicknamed "blueberries", made from hematite. Both rovers have been stuck in multiple sand traps. Engineers estimated the rover's maximum range at 1,100 yards. That valley will be Opportunity's eternal resting place.

Its greatest achievement was discovering, along with Spirit, evidence that ancient Mars had water flowing on its surface and might have been capable of sustaining microbial life. There was no response, and NASA is convening its leadership to deliver what appears to be a eulogy for its well-traveled robot Wednesday at 11 a.m. PT.

So while Opportunity may be gone, it leaves behind an incredible legacy. But the historic storm proved to be too much for Opportunity.

"With a mobile vehicle - a vehicle able to climb mountains and descend into craters and see these gorgeous, spectacular vistas - it really changes Mars into a place that seems like a real destination", Squyres told

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