After 15 years of crawling across the surface of Mars, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) team sent the last-ever commands to its Opportunity rover today. The rover landed on Mars in 2004 for what started as a 90-day mission. It has since become the longest-running rover NASA has ever sent to Mars.
A vicious dust storm forced Opportunity into radio silence back in June — the fiercest Martian storm NASA had ever observed. Dust covering the rover’s solar panels caused it to drain its battery reserves. Now, a bitterly cold Martian winter means that Opportunity had virtually no chance of waking itself up.
Its last message home, according to science reporter Jacob Margolis: “My battery is low and it’s getting dark.”
A Successful Career
Opportunity allowed us to uncover a number of Mars’ secrets.