NASA’s Opportunity rover surpassed a momentous milestone this weekend after experiencing its 5,000th Martian Dawn.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Pancam
When Opportunity first landed on the Martian surface on January 25th, 2004, NASA engineers weren’t expecting the rover to survive more than 90 Martian sols (90 Martian days). Nevertheless, it continues to explore the Martian surface and relay information back to scientists on Earth to this very day.
Image Credit: NASA
"Five thousand sols after the start of our 90-sol mission, this amazing rover is still showing us surprises on Mars," said a very excited John Callas, the Opportunity Project Manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
Citing an official statement by NASA, Opportunity has accumulated more than 28.02 miles on its odometer since reaching the Martian surface more than 14 years ago. Furthermore, the rover has sent more than 225,000 individual photographs back to Earth for analysis; most of those are available online for your viewing pleasure.
"We've reached lots of milestones, and this is one more," Callas continued, "but more important than the numbers are the exploration and the scientific discoveries."
Opportunity’s various science instruments have probed countless craters scattered along the Martian surface. Much of what we know today about Mars’ watery past can be attributed to data gathered by the rover along the way.
Today, Opportunity can be found roughly one-third of the way down Mars’ “Perseverance Valley;” it continues to venture into unexplored territory with the hope that we might discover something astonishing.
There’s no way of knowing just how many more sols the rover might endure before reaching the end of its life, but one can only hope that it’ll remain operational for a long time to come.