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NASA's 'Teenage Bot' Opportunity Rover Celebrates 13 Years on Mars

Jan 26, 2017 10:18 AM EST
NASA Opportunity Rover Sends Pictures Of Mars To Earth
NASA's Opportunity rover is celebrating its 13th year on the red planet. Scientists say that it has even matured like a teenager.
(Photo : Bill Ingalls/NASA via Getty Images)

NASA's successful attempts to land vehicles and rovers on the red planet help scientists in studying Mars. One of the agency's fleet of machines on Mars, the Opportunity rover is celebrating its 13th year on the planet.

This means Opportunity had already survived 13 years of the harsh environment on Mars and still counting. Some even call it the "teen" bot. Opportunity rover may be tough, but it is one small vehicle currently traversing the Martian surface.

It is only about the size of the golf cart. The rover started its mission to Mars last Jan. 24 in 2004. Opportunity arrived on Mars together with its twin rover called Spirit.

Both Opportunity and Spirit were tasked to look for signs of water on the red planet. The Opportunity rover had also been helpful in sending data about Martian weather.

"Opportunity has taught us that the water on Mars would've been something that life could've lived in," Abigail Fraeman, mission deputy project scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California said in a statement.

Surprisingly, despite the completed mission, one of the twin rovers is still actively traversing the red planet. Spirit's communication line went offline last 2010. But Opportunity remains active until today.

The teenage bot now has some defects such as technical problems with its memory retention. And because it's still functioning, as the years progressed Opportunity's recorded distance is also still expanding.

The rover is exploring Endeavor Crater since it arrived there in 2011. Today, there are only two active bots on Mars, Opportunity and the Mars Curiosity rover.

The rover's official birthday was last Jan. 24, according to a report. And to celebrate 13 years, NASA released a video enumerating why Opportunity rover is like a teenager. It includes being independently capable of climbing mountains. Recent updates made the rover more "mature", according to NASA scientists, similar to a teenager growing up.

However, just like teenagers, sometimes Opportunity failed to call home and has become too autonomous to defy scientist's orders as to where it should go next.

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