Feeds

Opportunity rover breaks Mars longevity record

Six years, 116 days operating on Red Planet

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

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)."

The Power of One Infographic

More from The Register

next story
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
Jurassic squawk: Dinos were Earth's early FEATHERED friends
Boffins research: Ancient dinos may all have had 'potential' fluff
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.