The veteran Mars rover, Opportunity, appears to have bitten the dust. The golf-buggy sized robotic vehicle last made contact with Earth eight months ago, but fell silent after being caught in a global dust storm.
The rover landed on the red planet in January 2004 shortly after its twin – a rover called Spirit. However the latter got stuck in soil in 2009, and was declared dead in 2011.
By contrast, Opportunity has continued to trundle over the surface of Mars and send data back to Earth, acting as as sort of remote geologist. Over the 15 years it has spent on Mars, Opportunity has clocked up more than 45km – despite being designed to travel a mere 1,006 meters and last just 90 Martian days.
Opportunity has made a host of important discoveries, among them confirming that parts of Mars were once covered in water, and could have been a habitable environment, and finding the first meteorite ever to be discovered on another planet, The rover has also sent back stunning images, including capturing a Martian “dust devil” twisting across the planet’s surface and panoramic shots that provided breathtaking views of Martian craters.
The final attempt at communication on Tuesday night was, it seems, an emotional affair.Tanya Harrison, a planetary scientist who worked on the mission tweeted: “There were tears. There were hugs. There were memories and laughs shared.”
Mike Seibert, who was also part of the team, paid tribute to the rover, dubbed “Oppy”, saying “Goodbye old friend” and noting that the rover was the longest lasting surface mission yet.
The mission is expected to officially be declared over by Nasa during a press conference on Wednesday at 7pm GMT.