Opportunity's legacy casts a shadow
This NASA rover was even older than Facebook. The Opportunity mission — which touched down on Mars on Jan. 25, 2004, a few weeks before Facebook was created — kept rolling for more than 14 years. It survived obstacles such as a sand trap and a difficult wheel before a sand storm cut off its power supply forever in August 2018. NASA officials announced the end of the mission on Feb. 13, 2019. Take a look back at the mission's end in this gallery.
This picture of the shadow of Opportunity on Mars was taken on July 26, 2004. That was early in the rover's nearly 15 years on the Red Planet, but way past its initial expiry date of 90 days.
'A team sport'
Thomas Zurbuchen (right), NASA's associate administrator for the science mission directorate, posted this picture of visiting Opportunity's mission control center on Twitter on Feb. 15, 2019. His caption read, in part: "Great, history-making science is a team sport, a deeply emotional affair."
Praise from the top
Beside a model of the Opportunity rover, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine speaks at a press conference Feb. 13, 2019 in Pasadena, Calif., announcing the conclusion of the long-running mission. Opportunity landed on the Martian Meridiani Planum on Jan. 25, 2004, three weeks after a twin rover called Spirit. Spirit sent its last call to Earth in 2010 and Opportunity, in 2018.
Honoring a long mission
Mission managers spoke fondly about the nearly 15 years of Martian roving with Opportunity, whose mission concluded on Feb. 13, 2019. At left is Steve Squyres, principal investigator for the Mars Exploration Rover mission that included twin rovers Opportunity and Spirit. At right is project scientist Matt Golombek. Both spoke during a mission briefing at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
Applause and hugs
A group of NASA scientists and senior officials mark the conclusion of the Opportunity rover mission with applause and hugs. The end of the Opportunity mission was announced on Feb. 13, 2019.
Connecting with colleagues
Keri Bean (facing camera), the NASA tactical uplink lead for Opportunity, hugs a colleague during a press conference discussing the end of the Opportunity mission on Feb. 13, 2019. The event took place at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
An emotional embrace
Jennifer Herman, the NASA power susbsystem operations lead for Opportunity, embraces a colleague during a press conference in Pasadena, Calif. at the end of the Opportunity mission on Feb. 13, 2019.
Command in ink
This tattoo shows the last measurement recorded from Opportunity. A NASA employee displayed it during a press conference at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory on Feb. 13, 2019, which discussed the end of the 15-year mission.
These socks (on the feet of Thomas Zurbuchen, NASA's associate administrator for the science mission directorate) depict an astronaut holding a flag upon an unnamed world. Zurbuchen wore these during a mission briefing for the Opportunity rover.
Making tracks on Mars
Tracks of Opportunity stretch into the distance on Mars. In more than 14 years of exploring the Red Planet, Opportunity rolled forward further than a marathon's distance. The rover explored several craters and found ample evidence of ancient water on the Red Planet. Roving continues on Mars with NASA's Curiosity rover, which landed in August 2012.
Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace