NASA's Mars Opportunity rover declared dead

Sand dunes are seen on Mars in this image released by NASA

Created to last only three months, and travel only 1000 metres, Opportunity provided scientists a close-up view of Mars that they had never seen.

With Spirit and Opportunity now out of action, NASA is left with five spacecraft on or around Mars.

But it wasn't meant to be, and NASA officially pulled the plug today.

Over the last few months, while scientists continued to revive Opportunity, hopes were fairly high that communication would be reestablished. And it's the technical legacy of the Mars Exploration Rovers, which is carried aboard Curiosity and the upcoming Mars 2020 mission.

Over the years, Opportunity's support team of scientists and engineers had to figure out work-arounds to get the rover out of numerous jams - ranging from Martian sand traps, to a bad case of robotic amnesia, to a heater with a stuck "on" switch.

Despite NASA engineers' best efforts to get a response via radio channels, its last communication was on June 10, 2018 after more than 600 attempts since August.

Opportunity was able to visit Victoria and spend two years driving around it and inside it before moving on to Endeavour Crater and ending in Perseverance Valley.

NASA will issue an update on Opportunity's status on Wednesday at 2pm EST (7pm GMT). The rover is solar-powered and would be unable to charge its batteries and operate if its solar panels have been covered by a significant amount of dust.

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Built to last for 90 sols, a fancy word for Martian solar days, the gallant instrument-laden bot plowed on for 5,351 sols, or about 15 Earth years. The pair were part of the Mars Exploration Rovers, or MER, mission.

But Opportunity far exceeded its expected lifespan and durability and traversed more than 28 miles along the planet when scientists only intended for it to travel just over a thousand yards.

The rover has not been heard from since June previous year when the storm blanketed the Red Planet, blocking sunlight and causing solar-powered Oppy to go into hibernation.

Associate NASA Administrator Thomas Zurbuchen began the event's commentary: "I stand here, surrounded by the team...it's an emotional time", he began. It also discovered evidence that there was once water on Mars, which may have been a possible breeding ground for extraterrestrial life. Unfortunately, a global dust storm that started in June 2018 was too much for the aging rover, which lost power early in the storm.

On Tuesday, InSight deployed its "mole," or heat flow probe, on the Martian surface, and in the coming weeks, it will be the first probe to go more than 16 feet below the surface. "I feel great about this", he said, stressing that both Spirit and Opportunity died honorable deaths after doing far more than was expected of them.

The nostalgia extended across the generations of scientists who have handled the plucky little adventurer. "Rest well, rover. Your mission is complete".

NASA has vowed to send people to Mars by 2030, but experts say it could take at least 25 years from now before humans could survive on the planet.

"It is because of trailblazing missions such as Opportunity that there will come a day when our courageous astronauts walk on the surface of Mars", NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement.

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