The Monitor Daily (U.S.) – Oldie but goldie Opportunity rover celebrated 12 years on Mars last Sunday. Having hit the Martian world on January 24th 12 years ago just after twin sibling Spirit rover, Opportunity rover marked a new era in exploring Mars.
The technology featured with Opportunity rover may be somewhat antiquated. Nonetheless, the rover is still holding strong, setting even a new record. The main task of Opportunity rover and Spirit rover was to find traces of water activity on the red planet. Starting from different landing points, the two rovers didn’t disappoint. However, in 2010, Spirit rover fell silent. One year afterwards, it was officially declared dead. Both Spirit rover and Opportunity rover did much better than anyone expected.
Their initial mandate was for 90 days. In a surprising display of resources, both rovers outlasted the wildest expectations. Oldie but goldie Opportunity rover celebrated 12 years on Mars. Despite some technical problems, there is no evidence that its mission will come to an end any time soon.
The southern winter solstice took place on January 2nd. Until this point, Opportunity rover transited the harsh winter months on the red planet in impeccable state. The team back home expected that powered to a minimum, the rover would fall silent for a while. Yet, Opportunity surprised everyone once more, working its way through. Winter months are particularly harsh as sunlight barely hits the solar panels of the rover.
In addition, the dust devils and Mars winds have done nothing less than clear the dirt off the solar-powered rover. A welcomed cleaning event, albeit unplanned, allowed Opportunity rover to continue its mission unhindered. John Callas with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory stated:
“Opportunity has stayed very active this winter, in part because the solar arrays have been much cleaner than in the past few winters”.
Not only did the Mars rover stay active, but it also recently performed a carving into the crust of a rock known as Private John Potts. The rock abrasion tool pierced into the Private John Potts rock to collect some more samples.
The Mars rover has proved to be a challenge at times for the team back home. Constant repositioning is required for Opportunity rover to continue harnessing solar power to drive it forward. Picking breezy spots to ensure cleaning events is also key. The first winter months Opportunity rover spent on the red planet caused an outage. Learning from this lesson, the team is now carefully choosing the spots where the Mars rover is to conduct its work during winter months.
Currently, Opportunity rover is located in the Marathon Valley of the Endeavour crater. According to NASA statements, its work in this region should conclude by the end of 2016.
Photo Credits: Wikimedia