In a rather exceptional feat conquered by NASA’s Opportunity Rover, it has completed 5,000 Sols on Saturday, 17th February 2017. Originally designed to stay put for only 90 Sols, the Rover stood firm passing through all the climate and harsh weather conditions at the red planet Mars. It’s twin tower, Spirit, got stuck back in 2010 and eventually lost contact with the mission control of the Earth. Both rovers were designed to trace water and its origin on the red planet and were equipped with tools and instruments capable of examining the compositions and other information.
17th February marked the day of Opportunity when it completed Sol 5,000 on early Friday Universal Time. The rover commemorates its feat sending a full-blown selfie of itself as a photomontage. According to Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Opportunity rover has traveled around 28 miles i.e. 45 kilometers from its origin point thereby collecting valuable data. It has sent over 225,000 photos ever since it has been stationed on the planet where humans have plans to colonize the region. The rover was original to last for only 90 sols as it wasn’t expected to last during the winter season of the red planet. However, the rover after being in operation for the last 14 years has been providing valuable data and photos to the scientists on the Earth setting a new milestone for any rover to perform such a feat.
A day on Earth last little above 24 hours while the day on Mars termed as ‘sol’ last 40 minutes longer than Earth. A full-blown revolution around the Sun takes Mars around two years to complete. NASA launched the Rover Opportunity and Rover Spirit on January 25, 2004, Universal Time. Both the rovers were designed to drill across the Martian rocks in order to find evidence that the planet had harbored water in liquid form in the past. In 2010, Spirit rover transmitted its last signal in 2010 when it got stuck in the sand and eventually lost power due to no charging. On the other side, although Opportunity rover had its chances of being stuck such as it got stuck in a single spot for over 19 weeks and then, another instance was recorded when the rover got stuck in a sand dune. After minor adjustments and re-orientation, NASA controllers were able to calibrate the rover and it has since been working commendably.
NASA installed rock abrasion tools and four spectrometers onboard that has been helping the mission control to obtain insights into the history of Mars. The evidence acquired from these rovers hint towards the existence of microbial life on Mars. The rover studies both Endurance and Eagle craters on Mars where inter-dune playa lakes were examined where the water evaporated to firm sulfate-rich sands. According to a post published by a major news publishing website, Spirit rover traveled across the Gusev Crater on Mars where it reported a basaltic setting. It later traversed towards Columbia Hills where the rocks hinted towards subsurface water and volcanism.
Space agencies around the world have sent their own rovers equipped with advanced instruments like NASA’s Pathfinder mission carried Sojourner in 1997 however, it broke down it just 3 months after being deployed. Next was Beagle 2 lander of the United Kingdom which was deployed in 2003, however, it developed a mechanical issue due to which the solar arrays failed to deploy. This caused blockage to the transmitters. Apart from Spirit and Opportunity, NASA’s Curiosity rover is strolling around the red planet and has completed over 1,960 sols.