Nearly fifteen years into what was meant to be a three month mission, NASA's Opportunity rover has finally ended its mission.

The Opportunity rover stopped communicating with Earth when a severe dust storm on the surface of Mars covered the rover last June. NASA engineers and technicians have sent over a thousand messages and commands to the rover since then in an attempt to recover it, but all of them have failed. On Tuesday they made one final attempt at communication, and when that was not answered they declared the rover to be officially dead.

The Opportunity rover landed on Mars on January 24, 2004, and was designed to last for only 90 Martian days and travel 1,100 yards (1,000 meters). Instead Opportunity managed to exceed all expectations in both scientific value and longevity. In the end it managed to spend fifteen years travelling over 45 kilometers, before the dust storm ended its mission in the appropriately named Perserverance Valley.

However as one mission ends, another begins. NASA's InSight lander, which touched down on Nov. 26, is just beginning its own mission of scientific investigations. The Curiosity rover has been exploring Gale Crater for more than six years and is still going, while NASA's Mars 2020 rover and the European Space Agency's ExoMars rover both will launch next year, in July 2020, becoming the first rover missions designed to seek signs of past microbial life on the Red Planet.

And so the exploration of Mars will continue, until the day we finally set foot on the red planet. And when we do, it will be in part as a result of the work done by the Opportunity rover.