NASA landed the Opportunity Rover on the surface of Mars in January of 2004. The rover is now going to work through its seventh Martian winter. Between January of 2004 and April of 2015, the Opportunity Rover has covered the distance of a marathon on the surface of the Red Planet having traveled 26.2 miles as of April 2015.
During its seventh winter on the Red Planet, scientists and engineers controlling the rover plan to use the time to examine exposures of clay minerals in the valley. The rover resumed its drive to the winter location on June 27 after it had been on three weeks of reduced activity during the Mars solar conjuntion.
The Mars solar conjuntion is when the sun is positioned between Mars and the Earth, disrupting communications. During that time the rover operated in a mode that didn’t store any scientific data inside the rover, all data was sent the same day it was collected.
The rover will spend the winter months in a location called Marathon Valley that was chosen for its sun-facing slope packed with potential scientific targets. That slope will help aim Opportunity’s solar panels at the sun so it can collect as much power as possible. Marathon Valley is three football fields long and scientists hope that clay deposits in the location will hold evidence of ancient wet conditions on the planet.