Today, we’re expressing gratitude for the opportunity to rove on Mars (#ThanksOppy) as we mark the
completion of a
that exceeded our expectations.
Our Opportunity Rover’s last communication with Earth was received on June 10, 2018, as a planet-wide dust storm blanketed the solar-powered rover’s location on the western rim of Perseverance Valley, eventually blocking out so
much sunlight that the rover could no longer charge its batteries.
Although the skies over Perseverance cleared, the rover did not respond to a final communication attempt on Feb. 12, 2019.
As the rover’s mission comes to an end, here are a few things to know about its opportunity to explore the Red Planet.
90 days turned into 15 years!
Opportunity launched on July 7, 2003 and landed on Mars on Jan. 24, 2004 for a planned mission of 90 Martian days, which is equivalent to
92.4 Earth days.
While we did not expect the golf-cart-sized
rover to survive through a Martian winter, Opportunity defied all odds as a 90-day mission turned into 15 years!
The Opportunity caught its own silhouette in
this late-afternoon image taken in March 2014 by the rover’s rear hazard avoidance
camera. This camera is mounted low on the rover and has a wide-angle
Opportunity Set Out-Of-This-World Records
achievements, including confirmation water once flowed on Mars.
Opportunity was, by far, the longest-lasting lander on Mars. Besides
endurance, the six-wheeled rover set a roaming record of 28 miles.
This chart illustrates comparisons among the distances driven by various
wheeled vehicles on the surface of Earth’s moon and Mars. Opportunity
holds the off-Earth roving distance record after accruing 28.06 miles
(45.16 kilometers) of driving on Mars.
It’s Just Like Having a Geologist on Mars
Opportunity was created to be the mechanical equivalent of a geologist walking from place to place on the Red Planet. Its mast-mounted cameras are 5 feet high and provided 360-degree two-eyed, human-like views of the terrain. The robotic arm moved like a human arm with an elbow and wrist, and can place instruments directly up against rock and soil targets of interest. The mechanical “hand” of the arm holds a microscopic camera that served the same purpose as a geologist’s handheld magnifying lens.
There’s Lots to See on Mars
After an airbag-protected landing craft settled onto the Red Planet’s surface and
opened, Opportunity rolled out to take panoramic images. These images
gave scientists the information they need to select promising geological
targets that tell part of the story of water in Mars’ past. Since landing in 2004, Opportunity has captured more than 200,000 images. Take a look in this photo gallery.
From its perch high on a ridge, the Opportunity rover recorded this image on March 31, 2016 of a Martian dust devil twisting through
the valley below. The view looks back at the rover’s tracks leading up
the north-facing slope of “Knudsen Ridge,” which forms part of the
southern edge of “Marathon Valley
There Was Once Water on Mars?!
Among the mission’s scientific goals was to search for and characterize a wide range of rocks and soils for clues to past water activity on Mars. In its time on the Red Planet, Opportunity discovered small spheres of
mineral hematite, which typically forms in water. In addition to these spheres that a scientist nicknamed “blueberries,” the rover also found signs of liquid water flowing across the surface in the past: brightly colored veins of the mineral gypsum in rocks, for instance, which indicated water flowing through underground fractures.
The small spheres on the Martian surface in this close-up image are
near Fram Crater, visited by the Opportunity
rover in April 2004.
For more about Opportunity’s adventures and discoveries, see: https://go.nasa.gov/ThanksOppy.
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