Mars Rover Sets Endurance Record: Photos From Opportunity’s 6 Years On-Planet
In January 2004, the Mars rover Opportunity, along with its brother Spirit, landed on the Red Planet. Eight months later we were wowed by their longevity, as both the machines had crawled long past their expected 90-day lifetimes. This year Spirit got intractably stuck in the sand and NASA announced that its days of wandering were finally at an end. But not Opportunity: The less mechanically troubled of the twins, Opportunity continues to rove the surface of Mars, and this week it passed the duration record for time on Mars set by NASA’s Viking 1 lander when it died in 1982. As of today, Opportunity has been operating on Mars for six years and 118 days.
By this March, Opportunity had driven more than 12 miles on the surface of Mars (on the far side of the planet from Spirit). But even a plucky rover needs breaks, especially now when the light level doesn’t allow constant driving. This image shows Opportunity’s tracks on a journey from one well-lit spot to the next, where it could recharge. However, the light level is increasing where the rover is located, so soon it should be able to take longer drives.
Click through for some more of Opportunity’s best images.