News last week that NASA's Opportunity rover was finally confirmed dead, 15 years after it landed on Mars. Here's some facts and figures about its journey out of this world...

 Opportunity on Mars

A mosaic self-portrait of the Opportunity rover. PICTURE: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell

• Opportunity's proper name is the Mars Exploration Rover (MER). It was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, 8th July, 2003.

• Opportunity landed on Mars on 24th January, 2004, in the Merdiani Planum region of Mars.

• Opportunity is one of a pair of twins. Its sibling, Spirit, landed 20 days earlier in the Gusev Crater on the other side of Mars. It logged almost eight kilometres of travel before ending its mission in May, 2011.

• The solar-powered Opportunity, which is about the size of a golf cart and weighs 174 kilograms, was designed to last just 90 Martian days (87 days on Earth) and travel just 1,000 metres. In the end, it lasted for 15 years and travelled 45.16 kilometres to where it now sits in Perserverance Valley (the rover holds the off-world driving distance record including the one-day Mars driving record set on 20th March, 2005, when it travelled 220 metres).

• Instruments on the rover included a panoramic camera, three different spectrometers for analysing soil, magnets for collecting magnetic dust particles, a microscopic imager for obtaining close-up, high-resolution images of rocks and soils, and a rock abrasion tool for removing dusty and weathered rock surfaces and exposing fresh material for examination.

• The rover sent back more than 217,000 images to Earth including 15 360 degree colour panoramas and self-portraits.

• Opportunity's achievements included finding definitive proof of liquid water on ancient Mars and that conditions on Mars could have sustained microbial life, if any existed.

• Among the obstacles the rover's team were able to overcome during its time on Mars were the loss of steering in one of its front wheels in 2005, the loss of the use of its flash memory in 2015, and the loss of steering in its remaining front wheel in 2017.

• The final communication from Opportunity was received on 10th June last year. It stopped communicating after a severe planet-wide storm blanketed its location.

• NASA continues its exploration of Mars with the InSight lander, which touched down on 26th November, and the Curiosity Rover which has been exploring the Gale Crater for more than six years. Two further rovers - NASA's Mars 2020 rover and the European Space Agency's ExoMars rover, are set to launch in July, 2020.

Source: NASA