Mars Rover Opportunity: Mars Rover Anniversary

Published: January 28, 2016

Mars Rover Opportunity: Mars Rover Anniversary, The Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s greatest minds expected its two identical Mars Exploration Rovers to last 90?days before dust clouded their solar arrays and drained their power.

On Sunday, one of those NASA rovers, Opportunity, rolled into its 12th anniversary on Mars. It’s now a veteran of surviving the harsh Martian landscape that most believed would limit its lifespan to months, not years. Opportunity’s sibling, Spirit, landed weeks earlier and lasted six years.

“Twelve years is a very long time to have this sort of a continuous presence,” said Matt Golombek, Mars rovers project scientist. “For a science team to be this involved, on a daily basis, for this long on Mars, is pretty much unprecedented.”

The golf-cart sized solar-powered robot is showing its age. Its joints ache and lock, two of its scientific instruments no longer work, and it suffers bouts of amnesia caused by faulty flash memory.

Opportunity moves at a turtle’s pace, and maybe slower now in its old age, but it keeps moving. In the past two years, it broke the record for the longest distance traveled on another planet and completed a full marathon’s distance. Today, its odometer is just shy of 27?miles total.

Opportunity, the precursor to the car-sized and equally resilient Curiosity Rover, launched in late 2003 and arrived on Mars on Jan.?24, 2005. No other rover mission operated as long in NASA’s history, yet its team members still find it enthralling.

“Every day, you’re looking at images that no one has ever seen before,” said John Callas, project manager. “In that sense, it’s always new, it’s always fresh.”


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