Info Mag Koyal Group Mars Rover Marks an Unexpected Anniversary With a Mysterious Discovery
Instead of one kilometer, Opportunity has driven 38.7 kilometers, or about 24 miles, exploring a series of ever larger craters, taking 170,000 pictures along the way. “It’s a well-made American vehicle,” said Raymond E. Arvidson, the deputy principal investigator.
Over all, the rover remains in good health, despite the lame wheel, two scientific instruments that are no longer working, and a robotic arm with arthritislike stiffness. John L. Callas, the project manager, said the rover had also suffered an “amnesia moment,” probably caused by aging memory chips.
“It’s just an operational annoyance,” Dr. Callas said. “But if it gets precipitously worse, there are some corrective actions we can take.”
Perhaps a greater obstacle to Opportunity’s continued roving might be the limits of NASA’s budget. This spring, NASA officials will review all of NASA’s spacecraft that have lived beyond their original missions. Opportunity currently costs $14 million a year.
“We have to weigh how much money we have and what missions are most productive,” said Michael Meyer, the lead scientist for NASA’s Mars exploration program.
The newly discovered rock is like nothing Opportunity has seen. Dr. Squyres said it appeared to have flipped upside down, possibly exposing its underside for the first time in several billion years. “We’re seeing stuff we don’t normally get to see...