Feeds

Opportunity rover breaks Mars longevity record

Six years, 116 days operating on Red Planet

Intelligent flash storage arrays

NASA's Opportunity rover today breaks the "longevity record" for operating on the surface of Mars, passing the six years and 116 days set by the agency's Viking 1 Lander.

Opportunity arrived on the Red Planet on 24 January 2004. Its twin Spirit arrived three weeks earlier, but has been silent since 22 March this year after getting permanently bogged down in a sand trap.

If Spirit does survive the Martian winter and get back in touch with base, it will in due course also pass the Viking 1 milestone. However, given the less than favourable orientation of its solar arrays since it came to a grinding halt, its future is doubtful.

Previous record holder Viking 1 travelled to Mars with two orbiters and a fellow lander, and touched down on 20 July 20, 1976. It operated until 13 November, 1982, "more than two years longer than its twin lander or either of the Viking orbiters".

Mars Exploration Rover project manager John Callas said: "Opportunity, and likely Spirit, surpassing the Viking Lander 1 longevity record is truly remarkable, considering these rovers were designed for only a 90-day mission on the surface of Mars."

Opportunity image taken on 8 May. Pic: NASAOpportunity will not be resting on its laurels. The winter solstice at its southern hemisphere location passed on 13 May, and the "gradual increase in available sunshine will eventually improve the rate of Opportunity's progress across a vast plain toward its long-term destination, the Endeavour Crater".

NASA explains: "This month, some of Opportunity's drives have been planned to end at an energy-favorable tilt on the northern face of small Martian plain surface ripples [see pic*]. The positioning sacrifices some distance to regain energy sooner for the next drive. Opportunity's cameras can see a portion of the rim of Endeavour on the horizon, approximately eight miles away, across the plain's ripples of windblown sand."

Steve Squyres, the rovers' principal investigator, said: "The ripples look like waves on the ocean, like we're out in the middle of the ocean with land on the horizon, our destination. Even though we know we might never get there, Endeavour is the goal that drives our exploration." ®

Bootnote

* NASA elaborates: "NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity used its navigation camera for this northward view of tracks the rover left on a drive from one energy-favorable position on the northern end of a sand ripple to another. The rover team calls this strategy hopping from lily pad to lily pad.

"Opportunity took this image on the 2,235th Martian day, or sol, of the rover's mission on Mars (May 8, 2010). The tracks are from a 14.87-meter (49-foot) drive southward on the preceding sol. Mars' southern hemisphere was in the minimal sunshine period close to the winter solstice, which occurred May 13, 2010 (Universal Time)."

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SECRET U.S. 'SPACE WARPLANE' set to return from SPY MISSION
Robot minishuttle X-37B returns after almost 2 years in orbit
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
'Utter killjoy Reg hacks have NEVER BEEN LAID', writes a fan
'Shuddit, smarty pants!' Some readers reacted badly to our last Doctor Who review ...
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
White LED lies: It's great, but Nobel physics prize-winning great?
How artificial lighting could offer an artificial promise
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.