Mars Opportunity Rover Celebrates 13 Years In Space
On Jan. 24, 2004, NASA landed a golf-cart-sized rover on Mars, just a few weeks after its twin, Spirit, started roaming on the other side of the planet. These two six-wheeled robots were supposed to embark on 90-day missions to hunt for water activity and were able to find plenty of evidence. In fact, they even showed that Mars was actually warmer and wetter in the past than it is now.
In a video that celebrated Opportunity's 13th birthday, Mission Deputy Project Scientist Abigail Fraeman noted that the rover showed that the water on Mars would have been something that could sustain life forms.
Spirit and Opportunity kept on rolling along the planet way past their 90-day missions. Spirit stopped communicating in March 2010, after it was bogged down in soft sand, making it unable to track the Sun with its solar panels. A year later, Spirit was officially declared dead.
Opportunity, on the other hand, is still active, despite the many issues that old robots come to know. According to Space.com, the 13-year-old teenage robot, which is actually already old for its kind, is now suffering from an arthritic robot arm and is having issues with its flash memory. However, despite its age, the rover still keeps extending its record for the greatest distance traveled on the surface of another world, clocking in at 27.21 miles earlier this year.
Chron also noted that by now, Opportunity has already spent a total of 4,749 days on Mars, multiplying its supposed lifespan fifty-fold. With Spirit gone, the 400-pound rover got another companion on Martian soil -- Curiosity. NASA's latest rover landed on Mars on Aug. 6, 2012, a little shy of 20 months after Spirit's official death.
Curiosity would not be the last rover to land on Mars. NASA already has plans to send two more surface crafts in the near future. The InSight lander is expected to be launched by March 2018, and a Curiosity-like rover is expected to follow two years later in 2020.