Mission over for Opportunity
After almost 15 years of trundling across the surface of Mars, NASA’s Opportunity rover has finally run out of puff. When “Oppy” and its twin, Spirit, first landed on the Red Planet in January 2004, engineers expected them to last no longer than 90 days. Instead, Spirit survived until 2010, and Opportunity kept going until last June, when it lost communication with Earth during a Mars-wide dust storm. Believing that the six-wheeler’s solar panels had been covered with dust, NASA scientists hoped the machine would power up when the skies cleared. But after eight months of failed attempts to revive the machine, its controllers back on Earth finally realized that Opportunity’s roving days were over. Project manager John Callas tells USA Today that he and his team came to think of Opportunity as their child, so saying goodbye was “very hard and very poignant.” During its extended mission, Opportunity covered a record 28 miles and made several major discoveries—most famously, confirming that water once flowed on the planet. NASA still has two other machines on Mars: Curiosity, which landed in 2012, and the static lander InSight, which touched down last November. Another rover, a near-twin of Curiosity, is scheduled to arrive in 2021.