Goodnight Oppy: NASA rover finally bites the dust on Mars after 15 years

Mission designed for 90 days lasted much longer

By MARCIA DUNN AP Aerospace Writer

This self-portrait of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity comes courtesy of the Sun and the rover's front hazard-avoidance camera. The dramatic snapshot of Opportunity's shadow was taken as the rover continues to move farther into…

NASA's longest-running rover on Mars, Opportunity, has been pronounced dead, 15 years after it landed on the red planet.

The six-wheeled vehicle was built to operate just three months. But it kept going and going 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 Tuesday night, accompanied by one last wake-up song, Billie Holiday's "I'll Be Seeing You." There was no response, only silence.

Remarkably spry until communication ceased last June, Opportunity roamed a record 28 miles (45 kilometers) around Mars, setting the off-world driving record, NASA officials said.

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.

The golf-cart sized rover arrived on the surface of Mars on Jan. 24, 2004. The mission was designed to last 90 days, but engineers said due to wind blowing dust off Opportunity's solar panels the mission continued for years beyond expectations.

In the end it was also a "historic" dust storm that concluded the mission. The sky was so dark the solar panels couldn't recharge, according to mission managers.

More than 835 recovery commands were sent to the rover through the Deep Space Network without success before NASA officially ended the mission.

Emilee Speck contributed to this report.

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