NASA Declares Mars Rover Opportunity Officially Dead

Feb 14, 2019
Originally published on February 14, 2019 6:59 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And now on this Valentine's Day, a story of heartbreak from deep space. NASA's love affair with the Mars rover Opportunity is now kaput.

STEVE SQUYRES: There wasn't a moment when you go, oh, my God. It's over. Rather, it was this growing realization that this thing that had been such a big part of our lives for so many years was finally coming to a conclusion.

GREENE: That's Cornell professor Steve Squyres. He was head of the team that ran the scientific exploration of Mars.

SQUYRES: I expected to be sad, and I'm not. I feel really, really good.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Opportunity was supposed to have a mission lasting 90 days. Instead, it lived about as long as a typical pet - 15 years until June, when it went quiet.

GREENE: The team back on Earth tried everything to re-establish contact over the next several months. On Tuesday, though, they gave up. They sent it one last signal - a goodbye of sorts. It was a recording of "I'll Be Seeing You" by jazz legend Billie Holiday.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I'LL BE SEEING YOU")

BILLIE HOLIDAY: (Singing) I'll be seeing you in all the old, familiar places.

INSKEEP: Sad to say that Opportunity did not take the opportunity to respond. Thomas Zurbuchen is associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate.

THOMAS ZURBUCHEN: I'm standing here with a sense of deep appreciation and gratitude that I declare the Opportunity mission as complete and with it, the Mars exploration rover mission as complete.

GREENE: Now, Opportunity was, actually, the second rover that NASA managed to land on Mars back in 2004.

INSKEEP: The rovers performed tests to determine whether there were once life-sustaining conditions on the planet. And they discovered evidence of ancient waterways. For scientist Steve Squyres, Opportunity exceeded every expectation.

SQUYRES: The first 90 days, that we expected to get. We would've been disappointed if we hadn't gotten it. After that, every day was a gift. And you just try to appreciate every single one of them.

INSKEEP: They took every possible opportunity.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I'LL BE SEEING YOU")

HOLIDAY: (Singing) ...In every lovely summer's day... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.