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13 February 2019, 11:22 | Edward Lowe
An illustration made available by NASA shows the rover Opportunity on the surface of Mars
A dust storm that swept the planet in May 2018 is suspected to have blocked the machine from receiving sun rays to charge its solar panels.
NASA'sOpportunityrover mission was one of the most successful and enduring feats of interplanetary exploration.
Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, said: "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". The golf cart-size rovers were created to operate as geologists for just three months, after bouncing onto our planetary neighbor inside cushioning air bags in January 2004. The rover's team made their last attempt to contact Opportunity last night, and it went unanswered. "I have to tell you, this is an emotional time", he added.
In the end, Opportunity set endurance and distance records that are years, if not decades, from being broken.
Opportunity was easily the longest-lasting lander on Mars, despite being created to last just 90 days, and also set a roaming record of 45 kilometres before coming to rest, somewhat fittingly, in Perseverance Valley.
The experience inspired her to pursue a career at JPL; Fraeman is now a deputy project scientist on the Mars exploration rover project, and works with Opportunity nearly daily.
When the sky finally cleared, Opportunity remained silent, its internal clock possibly so scrambled that it no longer knew when to sleep or wake up to receive commands.
Scientists consider this the end of an era, now that Opportunity and Spirit are both gone.
Now it is up to Curiosity and the InSight lander to carry on the legacy, Mr Callas said, along with spacecraft in orbit around Mars.
"Mars is now part of our neighbourhood".
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