Robot the size of a golf buggy has sent data to Earth for 15 years but fell silent eight months ago and Nasa says mission is complete
Nasa declared the 15-year mission of the veteran Mars rover Opportunity finally over on Wednesday, crediting the robot as having “transformed our understanding of our planet”.
The golf buggy-sized vehicle last made contact with Earth eight months ago, after being caught in a global dust storm.
Announcing the mission’s end, Thomas Zurbuchen, the associate administrator of the Science Mission Directorate at Nasa, said the rover had “remained silent” after a last-ditch effort to contact Opportunity on Tuesday.
Despite the loss, the mood at the press conference at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, was one of celebration on Wednesday.
“I’m standing here with a sense of deep appreciation and gratitude to declare the Opportunity mission as complete,” Zurbuchen said.
“It transformed our understanding of our planet, everything we do and think about in our planetary neighborhood with Mars and elsewhere relates to the research from that and the engineering breakthroughs that came from that.”
Opportunity landed on Mars in January 2004 shortly after its twin – a rover called Spirit. Together, the pair were part of Nasa’s Mars Exploration Rover programme. However, the Spirit got stuck in soil in 2009 and was declared defunct in 2011.