11 Photos from the Opportunity Rover's Decade on Mars
On this date in 2004, the rover Opportunity landed on Mars. Originally intended to serve a mere 90-day mission, the rover has instead beamed back scientific discoveries for a decade. (Its twin rover, Spirit, ended its mission in 2011.) During that time, the rover has traveled 24.07 miles, from Eagle Crater to the Endeavour Crater (you can see the route Opportunity took here). Let's celebrate Opportunity's 10th anniversary on Mars with a look at the images the rover has captured of our red neighbor.
1. Opportunity's First 360-Degree Shot
Photo courtesy of NASA/JPL/Cornell. Here's a larger version.
This 360-degree panorama, comprised of 225 frames, shows Mars as it was seen by Opportunity on February 2, 2004. You can see marks made by the rover's airbags, made as Opportunity rolled to a stop.
2. Finding a Meteorite
Image courtesy of NASA/JPL/Cornell
This meteorite, found by Opportunity on January 19, 2005, was the first meteorite ever identified on another planet. The rover's spectrometers revealed that the basketball-sized meteorite was composed mostly of iron and nickel.
3. Erebus Crater and Drifts
On October 5, 2005—four months after Opportunity got stuck in an area NASA nicknamed "Purgatory Dune"—the rover skirted wind-deposited drifts in the center of the Erebus Crater, heading west along the outcrop (the light-toned rock) on the crater's rim, and snapped this photo with its PanCam.
Located on the western ledge of the Erebus Crater, this ledge—called "Payson"—has a diverse range of primary and secondary sedimentary layers formed billions of years ago. According to NASA, "these structures likely result from an interplay between windblown and water-involved processes." Opportunity snapped this photo on April 5, 2006.
5. Cape Verde
On October 20, 2007, Opportunity celebrated its second Martian birthday (one Martian year = 687 Earth days) by snapping this photo of Cape Verde, a promontory that juts out of the wall of the Victoria Crater. Scattered light from dust on the front sapphire window of the rover's camera created the soft quality of the image and the haze in the right corner.
6. and 7. Hard at work on Marquette Island
This photo shows Opportunity approaching a rock called "Marquette Island" on November 5, 2009. Because its dark color made it stick out, the rover team referred to the rock—which investigations suggested was a stony meterorite—as "Sore Thumb." But it was eventually renamed using, according to NASA, "an informal naming convention of choosing island names for the isolated rocks that the rover is finding as it crosses a relatively barren plain on its long trek from Victoria Crater toward Endeavour Crater."
On November 19, 2009, the rover used its rock abrasion tool to analyze a 2-inch diameter area of Marquette, which scientists called "Peck Bay."
8. SkyLab Crater
Photo courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech. Click to enlarge.
Opportunity snapped a photo of this small crater, informally called Skylab, on May 12, 2011. Scientists estimate that the 30-foot crater was formed within the past 100,000 years. You can also see the crater in stereo if you have a pair of anaglyph glasses!
9. I Can See Your Shadow!
On its 3051st day on Mars (August 23, 2012), Opportunity snapped this photo of its own shadow stretching into the Endeavour Crater.
10. Dust Devil
NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell University/Texas A&M
Though its twin rover, Spirit, had seen many dust devils by this point, Opportunity caught sight of one for the first time on July 15, 2010.
11. Self Portrait, January 2014
NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.
A girl sure can get dusty traversing the Martian plains! Opportunity snapped the images that comprise this self-portrait with its panoramic camera between January 3 and January 6, 2014, a few days after winds blew off some of the dust on its solar panels. The shadow belongs to the mast—which is not in the photo—that the PanCam is mounted on.