The Little Rover That Could

2 m
Categories
An artist's impression of the Opportunity Rover (image credit: NASA)

The Opportunity Rover is one of the most successful space missions ever. In this episode of the Element, Science Advisor Jesse Rogerson explains everything you need to know about the little rover that could.

The Opportunity Rover is one of the most successful space missions ever. In this episode of the Element, Science Advisor Jesse Rogerson explains everything you need to know about the little rover that could.

Did you know Mars is the only planet entirely inhabited by robots? It’s true! There are two active robots roving the surface of Mars, and one of them just passed a massive milestone. On February 16, 2018, NASA’s Opportunity rover celebrated its 5000th Martian Day on the red planet, and there are no plans to stop. Here’s everything you need to know about the Opportunity rover.

Opportunity, and its twin rover Spirit, landed on opposite sides of Mars in early 2004. The mission was meant to be just 90 days, and the goal was to search for rocks that formed in wet environments, essentially looking for evidence of past rivers, lakes, or oceans on Mars.

After a bouncy landing Opportunity, also known as Oppy, immediately hit paydirt. It found little round rocks called spherules, about one cm in size, which are created by water trickling through gaps in larger rocks and depositing minerals. Mission accomplished! Mars has a wet history. After that discovery the rest of the 90 days flew by quickly, but Oppy was still operating perfectly, so NASA extended the mission. Off Oppy went into the wilderness of Meridiani Planum, a vast expanse of plains at the equator of Mars.

It’s first destination was a small crater called Endurance, about one kilometre from its landing site. After that was Victoria crater, And then came the big road trip. Opportunity drove another 12 km drive to Endeavour Crater. At an average cruising speed of about 1 cm/s, that trip that took about three years to complete. Currently, the rover is scouting the crater rim, continuing its mission to understand a different world.

During its drive to Endeavour, Oppy broke the off-world distance record by completing 40 kilometers back in 2014. And then in 2015 it reached a distance of 42.195 km, completing the first ever Marathon on Mars.

It celebrated its 5000 Martian day with its first-ever Selfie. After 14 years, over 45 kilometers behind it, and now plans to slow down.
 

Author(s)
Profile picture for user Jesse Rogerson
Jesse Rogerson, PhD

As a passionate science communicator, Jesse Rogerson loves promoting science literacy to the public. He frequently represents the Canada Aviation and Space Museum on television and radio, social media, and at conferences. A trained and practicing astrophysicist, Jesse holds a PhD in observational astrophysics from York University, and publishes his research in peer-reviewed journals. Jesse enjoys riding his motorcycle, board games, and ultimate frisbee.