Today marks the start of the “teen years” on Mars for NASA’s Opportunity rover — it’s been busy exploring, studying, and traveling across the planet’s surface for 13 years now and still going strong! Launched July 7, 2003, the rover is currently in its 4,624th sol of operations — pretty impressive for a mission that was initially only planned to last 90 days. (I suppose it’s OK if Opportunity wants to get a little bit of an attitude now, seeing as she’s such an overachieving teenager!) The video below was recently released by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena and features some of the talented engineers and scientists who work with the Opportunity rover on a daily basis.
Opportunity is currently studying the surface of Mars along the western slopes of the 14-mile-wide Endeavour Crater, just south of an area called “Marathon Valley” — named because when the rover came upon it, it had successfully traveled a bit over 26.2 miles across Mars since its landing on Jan. 25, 2004 (EST/UTC). Opportunity is the record-holder for off-world long distance driving!
Opportunity’s current odometer reading is now 27.21 miles.
During its prime mission and for more than 12 years of additional exploration across extended missions Opportunity has repeatedly found compelling evidence of ancient watery environments on Mars.
“We have now exceeded the prime-mission duration by a factor of 50,” noted Opportunity Project Manager John Callas last October. “Milestones like this are reminders of the historic achievements made possible by the dedicated people entrusted to build and operate this national asset for exploring Mars.”
As a “throwback” this was Opportunity’s very first Pancam mosaic from the surface of Mars, taken from the 65-foot (20m) Eagle Crater in which the rover landed:
Happy 13th year on Mars and best wishes to Opportunity for many more years — both Earth and Martian — of science and exploration!
You can find the latest updates from the Opportunity mission here.