NASA's Opportunity rover marks 15th anniversary on Mars

NASA's Opportunity rover marked the 15th anniversary of its touchdown on Mars on Thursday.

The spacecraft has not been heard from since a planet-wide dust storm in June last year. Although the storm eventually abated and the Martian skies cleared, the rover has not communicated with Earth since then.

"Fifteen years on the surface of Mars is testament not only to a magnificent machine of exploration but the dedicated and talented team behind it that has allowed us to expand our discovery space of the Red Planet," said John Callas, project manager for Opportunity at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.

"However, this anniversary cannot help but be a little bittersweet as at present we don't know the rover's status. We are doing everything in our power to communicate with Opportunity, but as time goes on, the probability of a successful contact with the rover continues to diminish," he said.

In an attempt to continue Opportunity's mission, engineers at JPL are sending commands to and are listening for signals from the rover. If engineers hear from it, they could attempt a recovery, said the team.

Opportunity landed on Mars on January 24, 2004. The golf-cart-sized rover was designed to travel a kilometer and operate on the Red Planet for 90 Martian days, but it has traveled over 45 kilometers and logged its 5,000th Martian day back in February 2018.

(Top image: A low-angle self-portrait of NASA's Curiosity Mars rover vehicle at the site from which it reached down to drill into a rock target called "Buckskin" on lower Mount Sharp. /VCG Photo)

Source(s): Xinhua News Agency