As far as NASA's Mars rovers go, Curiosity has been getting the lion's share of the attention lately. Curiosity isn't alone on the red planet, however, with Opportunity beginning its 10th year on the surface of Mars this week. Opportunity touched down on Mars on January 24, 2004, with the original goal of finding out if the water had ever been present on the surface.
That mission was only supposed to last for three months, but fast forward to today and Opportunity has been up and running 36 times longer than originally planned. In the time since landing, Opportunity has driven 22.03 miles, a far cry from the 2,000 feet it was intended to cover. Those first three months were filled with excitement for NASA scientists, though, as Opportunity was able to provide evidence that at one point in the past, water flowed over the surface of Mars.
These days, Opportunity occupies its time heading from crater to crater, trying to get a closer look at deeper layers of the Martian ground. At the moment, NASA says it is examining veined rocks that have been discovered on the rim of the Endeavor crater. The area Opportunity is examining has been dubbed "Matijevic Hill," and the rover has taken a panoramic shot of the area to ring in the beginning of its 10th year, which you can see above.
While Opportunity is still going strong, the same can't be said for its twin, Spirit. Both landed on the surface at the same time, but Spirit shut down in 2010. There's no word on how much longer Opportunity will continue crawling along the surface of Mars, but you bet that NASA will continue to squeeze as much as possible out of its investment. Stay tuned.
[via NASA JPL]