Today on Mars the robotic rover Opportunity (that's right, Opportunity--remember when we all used to care about Opportunity?) is hitting a major milestone. The rover touched down on the surface of Mars Jan. 24, 2004, just three weeks after its sister rover Spirit landed elsewhere on the planet. That makes today the beginning of Opportunity's tenth year of Mars exploration--not bad for a machine that was designed for a three-month mission.
Spirit and Opportunity were sent to the Red Planet in search of signs of its hydrological history (and, therefore, potential past life). Spirit made perhaps its biggest contribution in 2007 when it uncovered a long-defunct hydrothermal system in Gusev crater, an indication that Mars was once home to both liquid water and an energy source, key ingredients for life as we understand it. But in 2010 it became stuck in a bed of soft sand and couldn't reorient its solar panels in a way that would allow it to survive the Martian winter. Attempts to revive it during the Mars spring of 2011 failed and it was pronounced dead.
Opportunity enjoyed its own brush with death back in April of 2005 when it too became stuck in a sand dune. NASA mission operators spent weeks doing simulations back on Earth before finally figuring out how to rock Opportunity free and get it moving across the surface again--and it continues to roll to this day. It is currently exploring the rim of Endeavour Crater, a geological environment rich in clay deposits that may have once been capable of supporting microbial life.
Both rovers, of course, far outlived their three-month design lives. Opportunity has now logged 22.03 miles on Mars since touching down, and with the exception of some expected wear and tear engineers say the rover is still in excellent shape. In fact, Opportunity very well may soon overtake the Soviet lunar rover Lunokhod 2 for the all-time record for most distance traveled on another planetary body (Lunokhod 2 traveled 23 miles across the moon in 1973). By comparison Mars Rover Curiosity, even with its tendency to dominate the headlines, still has a long way to go.
Robot Opportunity 10 years! WoW! Kudos to you
Mr. Opporunity robot, you deserve a reward.
PoPSCi just reported that safe sex is fun.
Now take a break from you activities and go
GO BOY! GO!
How do they get pictures of these rovers on mars? As in "who" or "what" on mars is standing back, and taking pictures like this? I get the ones that are taken by the robotic arms, but ones like these elude me.
24 January 2013 is 9 years from 24 January 2004. Get the math right Popsci and re-report this milestone next year.
I remember reading about it landing in Elementary school. I'm now in college.
The caption says "A Simulated Self-Portrait NASA"
This is amazing. My congratulation to all who took part in this project.
If you count the number of calendar years, including 2004, it is the beginning of the tenth.
In the hanger\studio of area 51, this picture was a SNAP, lol. ;)
I suspect time travel was involved.
How interesting, looking at the picture in the article upper right hand corner, in the distance back, I seem to see short green grass.
one can also consider the trip to Mars as mission time!
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This is not a birthday. Opportunity is working since 24/01/2004, so it is working for 10 years.
The headline says "begins its 10th year"
Are you implying the Martians smoke grass as well?
Perhaps they graze on the grass..... who knows.
There are many pastures in the area 54, lol.
@Dinosaurbacon, read the caption below the photo. It says "Simulated" self portrait. Meaning a computer generated portrait.
Why would a simulated self portrait, include grass in the background?