Skip to Content
Artificial intelligence

It’s official. NASA has finally called the end of the Opportunity Mars rover mission.

NASA has ended its attempts to communicate with the robot, which has been on Mars for 15 years.
February 13, 2019
NASA

Update at 2 p.m. EST, Feb. 13:

In a press briefing, NASA announced the end of the mission after more than 800 attempts to contact the Mars rover Opportunity.

It looks as if the Mars rover Opportunity has finally reached its end after 15 years on the Red Planet. After an intense storm hit the rover last June, Opportunity went silent. Since September, the team at NASA has been using a “sweep and beep” process to try to contact the robot, which involves sending commands and waiting to hear a beep back. We haven’t heard one.

NASA announced yesterday that the team would be putting in its final efforts to contact the rover last night, and would announce the results today. But it doesn’t look good.

We could see the final uplink commands being sent through the Deep Space Network, the global network of communications facilities that helps NASA send messages to its spacecraft.

But tweets from the people in the control room last night suggest that those attempts were met with silence.

We’re still awaiting official word from NASA in the form of a press briefing at 11 a.m. PST (2 p.m. EST), but it seems certain that this is the end for the rover.

The team was hoping that the windy season on Mars would help clear off Opportunity’s solar panels, allowing it to power up again. But now, after months of trying, winter is approaching.

We said goodbye to Opportunity’s companion rover, Spirit, back in 2011 which stopped communicating with NASA on March 22, 2010 (see “Goodbye, Spirit: An Explorer of the Red Planet”). Spirit and Opportunity landed on opposite sides of the planet in 2004.

In its time on Mars, Opportunity provided data that helped advance our understanding of our planetary neighbor. It has traveled over 45 kilometers, sending back a treasure trove of images, and discovered the first signs of ancient ice.

But this is by no means the end of science on Mars. The legacy lives on in the form of Curiosity and InSight. The Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars in 2012, is still helping researchers uncover how certain craters and mountains formed, while the InSight probe is on the hunt for Marsquakes.

Deep Dive

Artificial intelligence

What does GPT-3 “know” about me? 

Large language models are trained on troves of personal data hoovered from the internet. So I wanted to know: What does it have on me?

An AI that can design new proteins could help unlock new cures and materials 

The machine-learning tool could help researchers discover entirely new proteins not yet known to science.

Automated techniques could make it easier to develop AI

Automated machine learning promises to speed up the process of developing AI models and make the technology more accessible.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.