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NASA confirms Mars Opportunity Rover is dead after 15 years on the red planet

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Roughly eight months after it fell silent during a planet-wide Martian dust storm, and just weeks after celebrating its 15th anniversary on the red planet, NASA is finally saying goodbye to the Opportunity rover.

The space agency has made hundreds of attempts to contact the rover since it powered down back in June, when dark skies prevented its solar battery from charging.

In a last-ditch effort, NASA sent out a final set of commands on Tuesday in hopes it might finally respond.

But once again, their calls were met only with silence.

NASA confirmed the grim news in a press conference Wednesday afternoon, where it officially bade farewell to the long-running mission. 

With the death of the Opportunity rover also comes the end of NASA’s Mars Exploration Rovers program, which launched from Cape Canaveral in July 2003 with the twin robots, Spirit and Opportunity. Spirit met its end back in 2011, a year after getting stuck in the sand and losing contact with Earth. 

The agency made one final attempt to contact Opportunity Rover (pictured) eight months after the spacecraft last made contact. A giant dust storm blocked sunlight from Mars in 2018, stopping Opportunity’s solar-powered batteries from being able to recharge

‘I’m standing here with a sense of deep appreciation and gratitude, as I declare the Opportunity mission complete – and with it the Mars exploration mission as compete,’ Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said during the Wednesday press conference.  

‘I will never forget the amazing work that happened here, it transformed our understanding of the red planet.’

The Mars rover, affectionately known as ‘Oppy,’ far surpassed the expectations of the team that’s operated it for so long.

It was designed to last just 90 Martian days (90 sols), during which it would travel a total of 1,000 meters (1100 yards).

But somehow, Oppy survived 14-and-a-half years after touching down on the red planet, pushing its limits to travel almost 30 miles to reshape our understanding of Mars.

It withstood years of extreme temperatures and radiation, but finally met its match this past spring, when a planet-wide dust storm encircled Mars and blotted out the sun.

This proved to be a fatal blow for Opportunity, as the rover relies entirely on solar energy to power its instruments. 

More than 1,000 recovery commands were sent over the course of eight months in a bid to revive the robotic geologist. 

The last signal successfully beamed from the $400 million (£311 million) solar-powered rover was on June 10, 2018. 

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