In 2004, a golf-cart-sized rover touched down in Meridiani Planum, a plain located 2 degrees south of the Martian equator. Its mission was supposed to last 90 days — but to everyone’s surprise, it remained operational for more than 5,000 days! The resilient Opportunity rover has provided invaluable scientific contributions and faced numerous perils along the years. Alas, all good things must come to an end. Last June, a huge dust storm wrapped around the planet, and Opportunity wasn’t spared. For months, NASA’s engineers had been struggling to regain contact with their rover, but to no avail. On February 13, Opportunity’s mission was finally declared complete.
“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,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said in a statement. “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 seems to me you lived your life
like a rover in the wind
never fading with the sunset
when the dust set in.
— Curiosity Rover (@MarsCuriosity) February 13, 2019
Celebrating the Opportunity rover — a legendary explorer. I’ve just sent a message to the @MarsRovers and their team on completing their mission.
— NASA InSight (@NASAInSight) February 13, 2019
Opportunity vastly surpassed all expectations and odds. This groundbreaking mission will continue to live inside our hearts as a symbol of endurance and exploration. Farewell, Opportunity!