Today marks the end of Opportunity’s mission. One of two identical Martian rovers, Opportunity landed on the Red Planet just over 15 years ago to start what was supposed to last 90 Martian days and travel 1,100 yards.
It covered 28 miles before a dust storm coated its solar panels last year, leaving the rover unable to charge it batteries.
Here’s a bit from NASA:
“For more than a decade, Opportunity has been an icon in the field of planetary exploration, teaching us about Mars’ ancient past as a wet, potentially habitable planet, and revealing uncharted Martian landscapes,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “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.”
Eric Berger has more on the pair’s mission:
The rover’s primary task on Mars was to help better understand the planet’s geology and understand the history of water there. It succeeded. In one discovery, for example, it found evidence of ancient hydrothermal vents that would have existed beneath a warm, shallow lake.
During its time on Mars, Opportunity did some incredible work. It traversed more than 28 miles (45 kilometers) of Martian terrain — the farthest of any surface robot — exploring multiple craters on the planet. It even survived another dust storm in 2007, though that one was much less intense than the one in June. Both Opportunity and Spirit have helped uncover clues about what Mars’ climate used to be like billions of years ago, revealing that the Red Planet once hosted oceans of liquid water on its surface. This ancient wet climate may have made it possible for alien life, like tiny microbes, to survive on Mars long ago.
What an amazing machine.