While all the focus in recent months has been upon the Mars Curiosity Rover, another of NASA’s creations has reached a milestone as we enter the New Year and the Mars Opportunity Rover’s ninth year of service gathering data on the red planet. Touching down on January 3, 2004joined three weeks later by Mars Spirit Rover – the two were originally sent on a 90-day mission to search for signs of historical water activity on the Red Planet, but would instead go on to surpass their designers’ and engineers’ wildest expectations not only finding strong evidence for water on Mars, but that it was likely a much warmer place billions of years ago. While Spirit would stop communicating with NASA in March 2010 and finally declared offline a year later, Opportunity is presently continuing its exploration in the Endeavour Crater that had two years ago seemed an unlikely possibility and so far has shown no signs of degradation as it continues in its operations. In addition to the geological survey the rover has transmitted back, Opportunity has been able to study Martian winds while collecting substantial amounts of astronomical observations and atmospheric information. Presently the agency is uncertain how long it will continue to function, but are more than happy to continue collecting its findings while it does.

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