Opportunity Mars Rover Still Working After Fourteen Years


Perseverance Valley, Mars, June 2017. Probable fossil water erosion gully right.

The Opportunity rover landed on Mars fourteen Earth calendar years ago today, and it still works fine after driving over 45 km! This is the farthest any off-planet vehicle has gone so far. Oppy’s 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.

At the moment Oppy continues to explore the western rim of Endeavour crater, where it’s spent several years. It recently got the dust blown off its solar panels by a Mars winter storm. Check out the project’s web site and the Red Planet Report for news!


6 thoughts on “Opportunity Mars Rover Still Working After Fourteen Years

  1. One major constraint that NASA engineers work under is that if something goes wrong after launch, you can’t turn a wrench or fire up your soldering iron to fix it. (Unlike your car, which you can drive or–worst case–have towed to a repair shop if something goes wrong.) So they design stuff to make all of the most probable failure modes less likely to happen, and often that practice results in things working long beyond their design lifetimes. At least one instrument I have handled, for a mission that was originally intended to be four years, is still working after more than 17 years in orbit.

    In other NASA news: the GOLD (Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk) mission is scheduled to launch tonight from Kourou in French Guiana. Launch window opens at 5:20 PM EST (2220 GMT). I know some of the people involved with that mission, which will focus on the upper atmosphere of Earth. I am told that live streaming is available at nasa.gov/live .

    Liked by 2 people

  2. OT
    The Atlantic White Shark Conservancy has received a lot of donations after Stormy Daniels revealed Trump has a phobia of sharks.

    And in regard to the nobility of humanity, our ability to have empathy even for that which may be a threat is also what rises (some of) us up.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Black monolith moment!
    Simon Neubauer et al at Max Planck Institute in Leipzig have published a study of endiocranial casts
    from anatomically modern humans in Africa, showing that brains got increasingly globular, and only brains 35,000 years old and younger look like modern brains. This parallels the emergence of
    evidence of really complex behaviour.
    I am aware that modern-looking humans had left Africa by then- maybe the full article will explain this.


    • Suggestion: be really very sceptical of any theory based on the idea that “complex behaviour” emerged at any particular point in the time line of modern human evolution. Also be really very sceptical of any theory based on human cranial measurements.

      Also, on another tangent, it is now well demonstrated that there were multiple back migrations into Africa – it’s definitely not the case that (1) humans migrated ‘out of Africa’ only once, and (2) never went back.


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