|Image credit - NASA/JPL-CalTech|
On January 25, 2004 the Mars Exploration Rover "Opportunity" landed safely on the Red Planet.
The original mission was expected to last only 90 days. Instead Opportunity has continued to explore, discover and return data for the last TEN YEARS.
(Those are Earth years, of course.)
Opportunity has endured freezing Martian winters, and blinding dust storms. The Rover spent 5 weeks in 2005 stuck in a sand dune, until researchers were able to carefully maneuver it free. In June 2007, intense dust storms threatened the mission by blocking up to 99% of sunlight from reaching Opportunity's solar panels. Dust storms and low power levels continued into August 2007, when dust storms finally decreased and Opportunity was able to resume its normal operations.
|Image above shows Opportunity's 24-mile path (gold line) from landing inside Eagle Crater to the western rim of Endeavour Crater. Image credit - NASA/JPL-CalTech/MSSS/NMMNHS|
During its 10 years on Mars, Opportunity has continued its mission to search for and analyze different rock and soil samples, determine the types of geologic processes at work past and present (erosion by wind and/or water, crater formation, volcanism), attempt to determine the types of conditions that existed when water was present on the planet, and look for clues as to whether life did exist there in the past.
All this for 35¢ per year, per American.
Heck of a deal.
"I think humans will reach Mars, and I would like to see it happen in my lifetime."
~ Buzz Aldrin, American astronaut
"Mars once was wet and fertile. It's now bone dry... I want to know what happened on Mars so that we may prevent it from happening here on Earth."
~ Neil deGrasse Tyson
Jet Propulsion Laboratory website for the Mars Exploration Rovers
Mars Exploration Rovers Mission Updates:
Videos, Team Commentary and Animations of Opportunity's Trek on Mars