After six years of exploring the Red Planet, the Opportunity Rover was finally declared dead. The beloved rover landed on Mars back in January 2004 and it managed to exceed all of our expectations. Opportunity was expected to survive at least 90 days, but it ended up exploring the planet for 6 years.
Last year in June, the rover had to shut down as a major dust storm was approaching. As the rover used solar panels, it appears that it ran out of power during the storm and it is believed that the panels are too dirty to function. Although the storm might have damaged the rover in a different way. What we do know for sure is that NASA cannot contact it.
“We tried valiantly over these last eight months to recover the rover, to get some signal from it,” said project manager John Callas. “We’ve listened every single day with sensitive receivers, and we sent over 1,000 recovery commands. We heard nothing and the time has come to say goodbye.”
The Opportunity rover was incredibly useful for the scientists and it led to numerous important discoveries. Scientists were able to learn a lot about the history of the planet, and how it evolved in time.
“We were able at the rim of Endeavour Crater to find rocks that were probably the oldest observed by either one of the rovers; rocks that pre-dated even the formation of Endeavour Crater,” explained Steve Squyres, Opportunity’s chief scientist from Cornell University.
Most importantly, Opportunity helped scientists discover the existence of water on Mars:
“And those told a story of water coursing through the rocks but with a neutral pH – it was water you could drink. That was one of the mission’s most significant discoveries.”
Nora Reynolds is a major in biology and a minor in Biological Basis of Behavior, writing about science in general. She also likes to try new gadgets and sports about the AI new era.