“My battery is low and it’s getting dark.”
That was the last message that NASA received from its Mars rover Opportunity on June 10, 2018, after which it was engulfed in a severe dust storm. Several commands to reestablish lost contact were made but none was successful.
With no response from the robotic explorer since then, NASA sadly declared the end of its rover Opportunity mission, part of the organisation’s Mars Exploration Rover Programme, on February 13.
Launched on July 7, 2003, Opportunity was was a robotic rover, built to explore the surface of the red planet for 90 Martian days. After landing on January 25, 2004, it actually kept working for 14 years.
During its lifetime, the rover travelled extensively across the surface of the red planet, sending back vital information about Mars’s ancient past as a planet that could have potentially supported life. Opportunity found hematite, a mineral that forms water at its landing site, Eagle crater.
Opportunity completed 5,000 days on Mars in February 2018.
On March 24, 2015, Opportunity completed the first-ever Martian marathon, covering a distance of approximately 42 kilometres. It took the rover 11 years to achieve this feat.
To celebrate Opportunity’s Martian marathon, employees of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory ran a marathon on Earth.
Scientists and researchers were pleasantly surprised with every anniversary that Opportunity celebrated on Mars. They even compared the rover to a teenager on its 13th anniversary.
Opportunity’s twin rover Spirit was active on Mars from 2004 to 2010, though it got stuck in soft soil in 2009. The batteries of Spirit couldn’t be recharged, and the mission was declared completed in 2011.