Friday, December 14, 2018

Can You Hear Me Now?

Three generations of Mars rovers: NASA/JPL-CALTECH/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
A three-month tour has stretched to 15 years for the hardy Martian rover Opportunity.  January 25, 2019, will be the 15th anniversary of the NASA rover Opportunity’s arrival on Mars, but the rover is on an extended quiet leave, thanks to a “global dust storm.”  that has blocked Opportunity’s transmission since June 10, 2018. 

Opportunity was the second of two rovers launched during 2003 to explore Mars.1  The first rover, Spirit, worked until 2010.  Following are scientific findings made by the rovers as described in the NASA report The Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity:
  • Life could have existed on Mars because rock samples showed signs of persistent soaking in water.
  • Other analyses by the rovers found soils and rocks had extremely high concentrations of materials that typically form in either hot springs or volcanic steam vents. These conditions may have been favorable for supporting microbial life. On Earth, microbes known as “extremophiles” thrive in similar environments.
  • Chemically neutral, “drinkable” water once persisted on Mars before an acidic period in the ancient past, thus creating more favorable conditions for microbial life.
  • Following the trail of past water on Mars, the rovers successfully allowed scientists to characterize much of what the red planet was like when liquid water flowed there.2
Both rovers have been successful missions and provided Earth with pictures and data that have contributed to our scientific knowledge of the Martian planet.  The global dust storm is expected to continue for several months to come, keeping Opportunity incommunicado for that time.

For updates on the status of communication with Opportunity see the Mission Status page for Opportunity at:
For more about space exploration see the book display inspired by the 15th Anniversary of the Rovers on Mars at the Al Harris Library.  The books in the display can be checked out.

1.    Brueck, Hilary.  “NASA’s Mars Opportunity rover is celebrating its 15th birthday with a nap because of a giant dust storm.  Look back at its unlikely journey”.  Business Insider,

2.    “The Mars Exploration Rovers: Spirit and Opportunity”.  NASA Mission Pages,

3.    “Opportunity Updates”.  Mars Exploration Rovers,

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