Opportunity rover mission ends after nearly 15 years on Mars

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Nearly 15 years ago, NASA's Opportunity rover landed on Mars. Its twin rover Spirit landed 20 days earlier.

The trailblazing mission of discovery surpassed all expectations in its endurance, scientific value and longevity.

"When this little rover landed, the objective was to have it be able to move 1,100 yards and survive for 90 days on mars. Instead, here we are 14 years later after 28 miles of travel and today we get to celebrate the end of this mission," said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's JPL.

The end of the Mars rover mission is bittersweet for its NASA team members who grew fond of the twin rovers.

"Even though it's a machine and we're saying goodbye, it's still very hard and very poignant, but we had to do that. We came to that point," said John Callas, project manager with JPL.

The Opportunity rover stopped communicating with Earth when a severe Mars-wide dust storm blanketed the planet and darkened the skies. The rover couldn't get solar power. For eight months, mission control tried to contact Opportunity to no avail. Its last communication was on June 10, 2018.

"Spirit and Opportunity may be gone, but they leave us a legacy," said Mike Watkins, director of JPL.

Rover achieved its primary objective - to find historical evidence of the red planet's climate and if the conditions had once been favorable for life.

"People are going to be benefiting all over the world. They're going to be benefiting from this science for years to come," Zurbuchen said.
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