Mars rover Opportunity: a decade in action

Mars Exploration Rover-2 is still in action trudging along and exploring one of Earth’s closest planetary neighbors Photo: MER

WASHINGTON, July 8,2013 — Mars Exploration Rover-2 (MER-2), popularly known as Opportunity, was successfully launched a decade ago on July 7, 2003 and was intended to have an operating life of about three months.

While it didn’t reach the great Red Planet until January of 2004, it’s a monumental feat that the Opportunity rover has superseded its operational expectancy by more than nine years, and is still in action trudging along and exploring one of Earth’s closest planetary neighbors.  


SEE RELATED: What can NASA’s Curiosity Rover tell us about the future of health?


The rover is not exactly a machine built for speed, having traveled a grueling 22 miles across the Mars surface during its more than nine years of exploration. Even so, the slow moving pace of the rover hasn’t prevented it from landing in the world records book.

In fact, in May of this year Opportunity surpassed the U.S. off-Earth driving record that had previously been held by the Apollo 17 moon rover.

Astronaut Gene Cernan, on learning the Opportunity rover had surpassed his Apollo 17 moon rover driving record said, “The record we established with a roving vehicle was made to be broken, and I’m excited and proud to be able to pass the torch to Opportunity.”

According to NASA, the purpose of the mission to Mars and the overall objective of Opportunity was to search for answers “about the history of water on Mars.” The rover was in luck, as NASA explains: “Opportunity hit the jackpot early. It landed close to a thin outcrop of rocks. Within two months, its versatile science instruments found evidence in those rocks that a body of salty water deep enough to splash in once flowed gently over the area.”


SEE RELATED: NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover makes history, sends back photos


Opportunity continues to move forward and send back critical information about Mars. Not all of the Red Planet’s secrets have been revealed, but Opportunity keeps inching onward, trucking along more than nine years later, which in and of itself is an impressive accomplishment.

To learn more about Opportunity and NASAs missions to Mars, please check out the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Mars Exploration Rovers homepage here.

Follow Tim’s updates on Twitter @CyberTimbo.


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Timothy W. Coleman

Timothy W. Coleman is a writer, analyst, and a technophile. He primarily focuses on international affairs, security, and technology matters, but Tim has a keen interest in history, politics and archeology, having visited more than 20 Mayan ruins in Central America alone.

Tim started off on Capitol Hill, worked on a successful US Senate campaign, and subsequently joined a full-­‐service, technology marketing communications firm. He has co-­‐founded two technology startup firms, is a contributing editor at intelNews.org and he is an intelligence analyst at the Langley Intelligence Group Network (LIGNET.com) where he specializes in aerospace, naval, and cyber security analysis.

Coleman completed his BA from Georgetown University, an MBA in Finance from Barry University, a Graduate Studies Program at Singularity University at NASA Ames, and a Master’s of Public and International Affairs with a major in Security and Intelligence Studies at the University of Pittsburgh.

Coleman volunteers and serves as a member of the board of directors at the Lint Center for National Security Studies. 

 

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