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.”
Opportunity was the longest lasting surface mission and farthest driving rover in human history.
For an expected 100 sols at Meridiani and 1km drive spec, she surpassed all expectations with 45.2km driven over 5111 sols.
Hail to the Queen of Mars. pic.twitter.com/TWJyOwMKmv
— Mike Seibert (@mikeseibert) February 13, 2019
It seems to me you lived your life
like a rover in the wind
never fading with the sunset
when the dust set in.
Your tracks will always fall here,
among Mars' reddest hills;
your candle's burned out long before
your science ever will.#ThanksOppy. I owe you so much. pic.twitter.com/x0i5WqA9sL
— 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.
Send your own message: https://t.co/dljw3vBQYp
Read news: https://t.co/UQj8dMiqNJ pic.twitter.com/Bk4KEmdTaa
— 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!