NASA announced yesterday (Feb. 13) the end of its Opportunity mission on Mars, and to commemorate the rover's record-breaking 15 years on the planet, the agency released this stunning photo originally taken in 2010.
In it, the rover looks back at its own tracks on the Red Planet using its navigation camera, which helped the team of engineers back on Earth guide the rover. Opportunity snapped this image on Aug. 4, 2010, during its long journey from Victoria Crater to Endeavor Crater, a nearly 12-mile (19 kilometers) trek across the Martian surface.
At the time, Opportunity was deep into its extended mission and the larger Mars Exploration Rovers mission was recovering from the recent loss of Opportunity's twin, the Spirit rover. Spirit got stuck in the Martian sands in March 2010 and was unable to move itself enough to keep charging its solar-powered batteries through the frigid winter.
Opportunity continued wandering the planet on its own until June 2018, when a massive dust storm darkened the Martian skies so much that this rover, too, couldn't power up. NASA spent more than eight months waiting for the skies to clear and trying to rouse the rover before officially calling an end to the Mars Exploration Rovers mission yesterday.
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Meghan is a senior writer at Space.com and has more than five years' experience as a science journalist based in New York City. She joined Space.com in July 2018, with previous writing published in outlets including Newsweek and Audubon. Meghan earned an MA in science journalism from New York University and a BA in classics from Georgetown University, and in her free time she enjoys reading and visiting museums. Follow her on Twitter at @meghanbartels.