NASA's veteran Mars rover ready to start 10th year

January 23, 2013 by Guy Webster
As NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity neared the ninth anniversary of its landing on Mars, the rover was working in the 'Matijevic Hill' area seen in this view from Opportunity's panoramic camera (Pancam). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ.

(Phys.org)— NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, one of the twin rovers that bounced to airbag-cushioned safe landings on Mars nine years ago this week, is currently examining veined rocks on the rim of an ancient crater.

Opportunity has driven 22.03 miles (35.46 kilometers) since it landed in the Meridiani Planum region of Mars on Jan. 24, 2004, PST (Jan. 25, Universal Time). Its original assignment was to keep working for three months, drive about 2,000 feet (600 meters) and provide the tools for researchers to investigate whether the area's environment had ever been wet. It landed in a backyard-size bowl, Eagle Crater. During those first three months, it transmitted back to Earth evidence that water long ago soaked the ground and flowed across the surface.

Since then, the mission's team at 's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., has driven Opportunity across the plains of Meridiani to successively larger craters for access to material naturally exposed from deeper, older layers of Martian history.

Opportunity has operated on 36 times longer than the three months planned as its prime mission.

"What's most important is not how long it has lasted or even how far it has driven, but how much exploration and Opportunity has accomplished," said JPL's John Callas, manager of NASA's Project. The project has included both Opportunity and its twin, Spirit, which ceased operations in 2010.

This month, Opportunity is using cameras on its mast and tools on its to investigate outcrops on the rim of Endeavour Crater, 14 miles (22 kilometers) in diameter. Results from this area of the rim, called "Matijevic Hill," are providing information about a different, possibly older wet environment, less acidic than the conditions that left clues the rover found earlier in the mission.

Timed with the anniversary of the landing, the rover team has prepared a color panorama of the Matijevic Hill area. The image is online at: www.jpl.nasa.gov/spaceimages/details.php?id=PIA16703 .

Explore further: Opportunity rover finishes walkabout on Mars crater rim

Related Stories

Opportunity heads toward 'Spirit Point'

June 9, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- When NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity reaches the rim of a large crater it is approaching, its arrival will come with an inspiring reminder.

Rover arrives at new site on martian surface

August 10, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- After a journey of almost three years, NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has reached the Red Planet's Endeavour crater to study rocks never seen before.

Dark shadows on Mars: Scene from durable NASA rover

May 23, 2012

(Phys.org) -- Like a tourist waiting for just the right lighting to snap a favorite shot during a stay at the Grand Canyon, NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has used a low sun angle for a memorable view of a large ...

Opportunity rover tops 20 miles of Mars driving

July 20, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- More than seven years into what was planned as a three-month mission on Mars, NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has driven more than 20 miles, which is more than 50 times the mission's original distance ...

Recommended for you

Stars born in winds from supermassive black holes

March 27, 2017

Observations using ESO's Very Large Telescope have revealed stars forming within powerful outflows of material blasted out from supermassive black holes at the cores of galaxies. These are the first confirmed observations ...

Supersonic plasma jets discovered

March 27, 2017

Information from ESA's magnetic field Swarm mission has led to the discovery of supersonic plasma jets high up in our atmosphere that can push temperatures up to almost 10 000°C.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

evropej
1 / 5 (1) Jan 23, 2013
Its amazing that its still running.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.