NASA‘s longest-running rover on Mars, Opportunity, has been announced dead after 15 years of exploring the red planet although the vehicle was built to operate for just three months.
However, the rover kept going and going after its 2004 landing until it was finally doomed by a ferocious dust storm eight months ago. Flight controllers made numerous attempts to contact it and sent one final series of recovery commands on Tuesday night, accompanied by one last wake-up song, Billie Holiday’s I’ll Be Seeing You.
There was no response, only silence.
Remarkably agile until communication ended last June, Opportunity roamed a record 45 kilometers around Mars. The vehicle was only built to drive 1 km on the surface of the Red Planet but ended up lasting longer on Mars than any other robot.
Opportunity and its long-dead twin rover, Spirit, found evidence that ancient Mars had water flowing on its surface and might have been capable of sustaining microbial life.
Another NASA rover called Curiosity, which arrived on Mars in 2012, continues its work on the Martian surface.
NASA’s InSight spacecraft, the first robotic lander designed to study the deep interior of a distant world, touched down safely on the surface of Mars in November with instruments to detect planetary seismic rumblings. InSight and the next Mars rover mission, scheduled for 2020, are both seen as precursors for eventual human exploration of Mars, an objective that NASA has said might be achieved as early as the mid-2030s.