Just before Valentine’s Day last month, NASA made one final call to Opportunity, the little Mars rover that had been trekking across the red planet since it arrived in 2004. The space agency lost contact with the robotic explorer in June 2018 during a massive planetary dust storm and had been attempting to reconnect with it ever since. To no avail: “With a sense of deep appreciation and gratitude,” NASA officials declared on February 13 that Opportunity was dead and its mission was over.
Americans from former President Barack Obama on down bid a fond farewell to what Wired called “the hardest-working robot in the solar system.” Indeed, it had lasted almost 15 years despite being designed to have a life span of just three months. Opportunity is survived on Mars by two other American robotic explorers: fellow rover Curiosity and the recently arrived InSight lander.This article was originally published in Foreign Policy.