Some of the team members that worked on Opportunity were moved to tears when NASA made a last-ditch attempt to make contact with the Mars rover last week.
It is sadly official. NASA has announced after more than 1000 attempts to make contact with it over the past eight months, the Mars rover Opportunity is no more. The golf cart-sized spacecraft was sent to the red planet, along with its sister Spirit, all the way back in 2004. Its mission was meant to last 90 days, yet it continued on for almost 15 years.
Opportunity has aided us here on Earth to learn an incredible amount of important information about our neighboring planet. It was the most famous of all the Mars rovers that helped scientists discover that at some point in Mars's history, there was water flowing on the planet. Where there's water, there is the possibility that life was there once too, or perhaps still is.
In June of 2018, a fierce dust storm struck the area of Mars where Opportunity found itself. While unsure of what happened exactly, NASA believes that the dust covered the solar panels through which Opportunity harvested its energy. That last message NASA received from the rover came on June 10 and said "my battery is low and it's getting dark."
Since then, NASA has sent more than 1000 recovery messages to Opportunity, reports Time. Sadly, none of them have garnered a response. On Tuesday, the space agency made a last ditch effort to make contact. Team members played Billy Holiday's "I'll Be Seeing You" out into space while many reportedly struggled to fight back tears. There was no response.
With that, Thomas Zurbuchen, head of NASA’s science missions, broke the news officially at the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. While some might hear the news and roll their eyes, during Opportunity's lifetime it did an immeasurable amount of work in helping us learn more about Mars. The ultimate aim is to have astronauts visit the red planet by the 2030s. Who knows, perhaps one of those astronauts will be able to salvage Opportunity so that the world can say a proper thank you and goodbye.