Nasa have announced that their Mars rover Opportunity has died after 15 years on red the planet.

Opportunity, also known as MER-B or MER-1, was placed on Mars in 2004, but was declared ‘dead’ on Tuesday after being knocked out by a dust storm eight months ago.

Nasa announced plans to abandon the rover from its Cape Canaveral headquarters Tuesday, after issuing a last ditch set of recovery commands. If Opportunity fails to respond by Wednesday, it will be officially declared defunct.

An illustration of Nasa’s Mars rover Opportunity on the surface of the Red Planet (Picture AP)

It last broadcast on June 10, with Nasa scientists speculating that Opportunity’s clock may have become scrambled during its outrage, disrupting its ‘sleep’ cycle and draining its batteries.

Opportunity, also known as MER-B or MER-1, landed on the planet in January 2004.

It covered 28 miles in its working lifespan  -more  than any other rover ever placed on the Red Planet, and confirmed scientists’ theories that water had once flowed on Mars.

The rover’s identical twin Spirit was pronounced dead in 2011, a year after getting stuck in some sand on the opposite side of Mars.

Both vehicles far outperformed expectations, with the robot geologists originally only intended to operate for three months.

A collage of photos showing Nasa’s Opportunity rover scanning the surface of Mars to send information back to Earth (Picture: Reuters)
Opportunity sent this striking photo of Mars back to Earth in January 2015. Its mission, which began in 2004 and was only meant to last three months, will officially be ended tomorrow after the rover stopped broadcasting (Picture: Nasa)

They bounced onto the planet on special cushioned airbags, with scientists paying tribute to the amount of information gleaned from Opportunity and Spirit.

Project manager John Callas said: ‘It’s just like a loved one who’s gone missing, and you keep holding out hope that they will show up and that they’re healthy.

‘But each passing day that diminishes, and at some point you have to say ‘enough’ and move on with your life.’

Deputy project scientist Abigail Freeman was inspired to join the program after watching Opportunity land on Mars when she was 16 and still at school.

She branded the rover a ‘workhorse’ and paid tribute to the skill of its operators.

Neither rover was designed to endure extreme weather – unlike Nasa’s nuclear-powered Curiosity rover, which continues to trawl Mars for information.


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