After months of silence from Mars, NASA finally read the rites over its Opportunity rover, hailing the six-wheeled machine as an overachiever that found some of the first and best evidence of the Red Planet’s warmer, wetter past.
The solar-powered rover’s demise was no surprise: It fell out of contact with controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., last June — due to a globe-girdling Martian dust storm that kept Opportunity from charging its batteries.
Mission managers tried all sorts of tricks to wake up the comatose rover and re-establish communications, but it was to no avail. The last attempt was made on the night of Feb. 12.
Today’s final Opportunity news briefing took on the trappings of a memorial service, featuring far more ceremony than NASA employed when the Spirit rover — Opportunity’s twin in the Mars Exploration Rover mission — went dead in 2011.