We have a teenager on Mars. NASA’s Opportunity rover has officially turned 13 years old in outer space.
The Opportunity rover landed on Mars on January 24, 2004, just weeks after its twin rover, Spirit, made contact with the planet. The two rovers were sent into space on a 90-day mission to search for signs of past water activity, but both currently remain there.
Over the past 13 years, the rovers have suffered from numerous malfunctions. Spirit ceased communication with Earth in 2010 after losing its ability to track the sun and NASA declared it dead one year later. Opportunity is still functioning despite issues with its robotic arm and flash memory.
The teenaged rover continues to maintain its record for the greatest distance traveled on the surface of another world at 27.21 miles as of January 16. Since August 2011, Opportunity has been surveying the rim of Endeavour Crater and is set to move to its new destination, a gully half a mile away, in the near future.
In addition to Opportunity, NASA also deployed the Curiosity rover to Mars in August 2012 to search for microbial life, a question that was quickly confirmed.
NASA has plans to send two more rovers to Mars in the near future to continue the search for life. The InSight is set for a March 2018 launch and the 2020 Rover is scheduled to depart in the year 2020.
Photo courtesy of PhotoJournal
Chamberlain Smith is a freelance writer based in Athens, Georgia.