Opportunity Mars Rover Still Working After Eight Years


Dear Reader, remember the remote-controlled Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity? How long is it since the last time you thought of them? Opportunity landed on Mars eight Earth calendar years ago today, and it still works fine! Its mate Spirit was mobile on the Red Planet for over five years and then functioned as a stationary science platform for another year before getting killed off by a Martian winter it couldn’t avoid. Amazing engineering that keeps working year after year without a technician so much as touching it.

Oppy is now at Endeavour crater and will spend the Martian winter in a sunny spot (good for battery charging), studying an interesting outcrop (image above) named Greeley Haven after planetary geologist Ronald Greeley (1939-2011). Check out the project’s web site for news! And meanwhile, the Curiosity rover is cruising on towards Mars…

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Author: Martin R

Dr. Martin Rundkvist is a Swedish archaeologist, journal editor, skeptic, atheist, lefty liberal, bookworm, boardgamer, geocacher and father of two.

13 thoughts on “Opportunity Mars Rover Still Working After Eight Years”

  1. It is hard to get moving parts to function for long with the presence of microscopic dust grains. A mazing engineering.

    (Almost, but not quite OT) Russia opens talks with NASA and ESA with plans for manned lunar base http://www.physorg.com/news/2012-01-russia-nasa-esa-lunar-base.html There is a guy named Peter Kokh who has advocated a return to the moon for decades -I think he has a web site.

    (OT) Viking mass grave linked to elite killers of the medieval world http://www.physorg.com/news/2012-01-viking-mass-grave-linked-elite.html
    Jomsvikings ???


  2. What I find most interesting about both Spirit and Opportunity are that each only had a planned lifespan of 90 sols.

    That each has gone far past those 90 sols is testament to a well engineered project.

    And Curiosity won’t suffer the problems of the prior two rovers. She carries an RTG, aka nuclear!


  3. They should send the MSL to Spirit to take a look to make sure it’s not sitting on bricks because someone stole the wheels (damn Mars hooligans).


  4. I’m sure you’re all familiar with this but still , it has to be linked: http://xkcd.com/695/

    And Birger: Jómsvíkingar, WTF? I’m constantly amazed that people always feel the need to make any material evidence from the Viking Age fit to the few much later texts we have. As if the burial weren’t fascinating in and of itself…


  5. Matt, it isn’t an either/or issue. The physical remains are fascinating as real evidence and potential links with sagas are fascinating conjectures. Most people are discriminating enough to understand the differences and to give the evidence its due weight.


  6. (OT, at the other end of the time scale)
    “Underwater archaeology: Hunt for the ancient mariner” http://www.nature.com/news/underwater-archaeology-hunt-for-the-ancient-mariner-1.9880

    This is the Mediterranean, but I have always wondered what kind of bronze-age wrecks might be found on the anoxic bottom of the Black Sea. In theory, stuff down there should be as well preserved as the Wasa, and there must have been some trade from the Mediterranean to the Bronze-age towns on the northern shores of Anatolia.
    I have always felt the Minoan civilization was a much greater gift to our heritage than the violent Abrahamaic religions (religions created by herders seem cruder and more violent than the agriculturalists-only ones).


  7. No, I don’t think so, Kevin. You and I may have read the saga but most people haven’t. Most people do not realize that there is no real connection between it and these burials. When they are told by National Geographic and the University of Cambridge that these people probably were an “elte killer” squad (their words not mine) they will believe it.


  8. Regarding engineering: One component in keeping the probe working that is not as obvious as the resilient metal chassis and the other hardware is the computer programs that have avoided stalling and have enabled the probe to move across the surface without real-time instructions from ground control.
    — — — — — —
    (Drastically OT) I must ask for your assistance in tracking down any English summary, google is no help.
    -A current Swedish news story that so far has not been translated in any major foreign news outlet is the innovation and refinement of reliable and fast drug testing using *exhaled air* (just like the alcohol testing Swedish police has done on drivers for decades).

    I see substantial positive consequences for society as a whole (archaeologists can now drive to work without worrying about drug-crazy motorits), keeping schools drug-free (nice if you are a parent) and making it harder for pushers to dominate the informal economy of prisons (good in case an RPG gets seriously out of hand…). However in the long term this also may have ethical implications.
    Just how much surveillance should there be?


  9. Haha Matt when you put it that way I see your point, at least as far as the headline is concerned. However, in fairness, the article gave a pretty good treatment of other possibilities — executed mercenaries, massacred Danelaw residents — that strike me as a little more probable.

    I don’t think pure archaeology needs to be afraid of conjecture. One can hardly unearth an ancient artifact without wondering how it relates to other things we know about the period, and conjectures make for much sexier headlines than simply the fact that ancient bones were found. After all, our own gracious host titled his book “Mead Halls of the Eastern Geats” without, as far as I can tell, actually finding one, though we think they must have existed.


  10. “How long is it since the last time you thought of them?” Well, if you follow the blog http://roadtoendeavour.wordpress.com by an ardent British fan of Opportunity, there’s hardly a 24-hour interval in which you don’t think about this amazingly sturdy rover. NASA has apparently left the outreach for this mission almost entirely to its international fanbase – which does a better job in processing the images from the Martian surface anyway, as the chief scientist of the Mars rovers freely admits.


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