"This could be the end" for NASA's Mars Opportunity rover, the principal investigator for the mission, Steven W. Squyres, tells the New York Times. The rover marked the 15th anniversary of its touchdown on the red planet Thursday—silently, the AP reports. It hasn't been heard from since a massive dust storm enveloped the entire planet in June. Amid the darkness, its solar panels could not generate the power Opportunity needed, but scientists hoped the rover simply went into "hibernation mode" and that once the skies cleared its battieries would recharge.
NASA has been trying to reach it every day since, and on Friday announced it had started sending out a new set of commands in case the rover is back up and running but is having trouble with its radios or internal clock and can't respond. Even so, NASA acknowledged such a set of circumstances is "unlikely," Gizmodo reports. Squyres tells the Times he hasn't given up, but if it is in fact the end of the line for Opportunity, "it feels good. I mean that." The rover was designed to last just three months and travel about 1,000 yards in its quest to find evidence that water once flowed on Mars; instead, it logged 28 miles and has been called "the Little Rover That Could." If indeed a storm the likes of which hadn't been seen on Mars in decades was what finally ended its mission, "That’s an honorable death," Squyres says. (This is what the wind on Mars sounds like.)