Ten years ago this week Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity one of the two rovers that bounced to airbag-cushioned safe landings on Mars nine years ago this week. The stout Opportunity has driven 22.03 miles (35.46 kilometers) since it landed on the Meridiani Planum region of Mars on Jan. 24, 2004. The prime mission was for three months, drive about 2,000 feet (600 meters) and provide evidence of previous water on Mars. Opportunity has operated on Mars 36 times longer than the three months planned as its prime mission.
“What’s most important is not how long it has lasted or even how far it has driven, but how much exploration and scientific discovery Opportunity has accomplished,” said JPL’s John Callas, manager of NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Project. The project has included both Opportunity and its twin, Spirit, which ceased operations in 2010.
Timed with the anniversary of the landing, the rover team has prepared a color panorama of the Matijevic Hill area. The image is online at: http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/pia16703.