A recent NASA JPL news release reminds us that with all the news about NASA's latest rover, Curiosity, and the many other robots on and above the red planet, some may not have noticed that the little Opportunity rover celebrated the start of its tenth year on Mars recently. Its companion, Spirit, went silent after six years but Opportunity keeps on going. Spirit and Opportunity were designed to have an operational life of 90 days, so even Spirit's six year life is impressive. (I can't even buy a washer and dryer that last six years and I don't drop my household appliances from orbit inside of bouncing airbags or expose them to dust storms and freezing temperatures!) From the news release:
Opportunity has driven 22.03 miles (35.46 kilometers) since it landed in the Meridiani Planum region of Mars on Jan. 24, 2004, PST (Jan. 25, Universal Time). Its original assignment was to keep working for three months, drive about 2,000 feet (600 meters) and provide the tools for researchers to investigate whether the area's environment had ever been wet. It landed in a backyard-size bowl, Eagle Crater. During those first three months, it transmitted back to Earth evidence that water long ago soaked the ground and flowed across the surface.
Opportunity is currently studying outcrops on the rim of Endeavour Crater, another area that shows possible signs of water from a much older era. To coincide with Opportunity's birthday, NASA has released a new panorama of the Matijevic Hill in the Endeavour Crater area. For more you can follow Opportunity's activities and discoveries on JPL's Opportunity mission status webpage, follow the rover's progress on the traverse map, check out Opportunities best photos on the pancam page or see all 176,525 photos returned so far from Opportunity on the Opportunity multimedia page.