Long Live the Queen MER Opportunity!25 January 2018
Today, January 25, 2018, marks the 14th anniversary of Opportunity’s arrival on Mars, having traveled 283 million miles from Earth. In 2004, scientists landed the robot geologist in Meridiani Planum, an area suspected to have once inhabited water. Opportunity is now a senior-citizen, in rover years, having defied a life expectancy of 90 Martian days, outliving its twin, Spirit, and setting the record for the longest active mission on Mars, and still trekking. People have said the rover has the characteristic of the Energizer Bunny—a marketing icon and mascot of Energizer batteries —where it just keeps on going.
Artist rendition of Opportunity on Mars. Image Credit: NASA
Dr. Ken Herkenhoff, USGS Scientist, and lead for the Mars Exploration Rover Microscopic Imager (MI) said, jokingly, the Opportunity rover could outlive some of us (or was he joking?). One of the scientific objectives of the Mars Exploration Rover mission is to search for and characterize a variety of rocks and soils that hold clues to Mars’ watery past. The MI provides close-up data needed for these studies. Read Dr. Herkenhoff’s abstract filled with interesting information regarding Opportunity Microscopic Imager Results from The Western Rim of Endeavour Crater.
With longevity comes the breakdown of many things. Long-lived Opportunity has suffered multiple amnesia events, memory loss as we commonly know it. The rover can no longer be driven forward, but minor crimps and cramps is not enough to stop an energized senior. Who knows how long Opportunity can survive in this harsh environment of the Red Planet? What is known is that Opportunity is fulfilling its science objectives and enriching the knowledge of humankind with spectacular details about Mars’ past. And we wish for Opportunity further longevity, a happy anniversary, and the capability to keep on trekking.