NASA bids farewell to Mars rover after 15 years

            By Michael Hernandez</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - Its mission was to last only 90 days, but 15 years later, NASA bade farewell to its historic Opportunity rover. </p>  <p>The space agency made the announcement Wednesday after unsuccessfully attempting to contact the rover over 1,000 times. </p>  <p>&quot;We have made every reasonable engineering effort to try to recover Opportunity and have determined that the likelihood of receiving a signal is far too low to continue recovery efforts,&quot; John Callas, manager of the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) project at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement.</p>  <p>Opportunity had traversed Mars' red surface as it climbed across crags and massive craters, sending back images of never-before-seen phenomena, including towering dust devils and rippled Martian sand that resembled an ocean bathed in dusk's light. </p>  <p>In all, Opportunity sent back over 217,000 images. </p>  <p>But a vicious dust storm that blanketed the red planet eight months ago spelled the beginning of the end for the six-wheeled vehicle. Its last transmission to Earth was received June 10 as the storm ramped up. NASA engineers continued to attempt to contact the rover, but the months-long storm prevented Opportunity's solar panels from recharging. </p>  <p>Opportunity was one of two rovers that landed in Mars' Meridiani Planum region in January 2004 after a seven-month space flight. The other vehicle, the Spirit rover, lasted six years until it drove into soil too soft to exit. </p>  <p>In addition to capturing scenes the likes of which humankind has only dreamed of, Opportunity stands as the record holder for the longest off-world drive, traveling roughly 28.06 miles (45.16 kilometers). </p>  <p>&quot;It is because of trailblazing missions such as Opportunity that there will come a day when our brave astronauts walk on the surface of Mars,&quot; NASA chief Jim Bridenstine said. &quot;And when that day arrives, some portion of that first footprint will be owned by the men and women of Opportunity, and a little rover that defied the odds and did so much in the name of exploration.&quot;