NASA's Mars Exploration Rover, named "Opportunity," has passed the 20-km. mark (or 12.43 miles) of total driving since landing on Mars in January 2004. Opportunity has far exceeded its originally-planned mission duration of 90 days, and has returned more than 133,000 images of the Red Planet.
On the Move
This artist's conception portrays NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity on the surface of Mars.
This image taken February 20, 2010 shows a rock called "Chocolate Hills," which Opportunity found and examined at the edge of a young crater called "Concepcion."
The rover used the tools on its robotic arm to examine the texture and composition of target areas on the rock with and without the dark coating. The rock is about the size of a loaf of bread. Initial analysis was inconclusive about whether the coating on the rock is material that melted during the impact event that dug the crater.
This false-color, closeup image of the coating on Chocolate Hills (measuring about 3 centimeters, or 1.2 inches) is of a target patch dubbed "Aloya."
The coating includes a layer in which peppercorn-size spheres nicknamed "blueberries" are densely packed.
Newly-developed and uploaded software (named Autonomous Exploration for Gathering Increased Science, or AEGIS) allows Opportunity to choose a target from a wider-angle image and point its panoramic camera (or Pancam) to observe the target through 13 different filters.
Opportunity took this image in preparation for the first autonomous selection of an observation target by a spacecraft on Mars. The top target that Opportunity selected with AEGIS (from the more than 50 rocks in this image) is shown by the yellow marker.
This image, from March 4, 2010, is the first observation of a target selected autonomously by a spacecraft on Mars. The rock is about the size of a football, and is close to a young crater called Concepcion. It might have been thrown outward by the impact that excavated the crater.
This false-color image shows the rock Chocolate Hills, perched on the rim of the 33-foot-wide Concepcion crater. Patches of unusual dark material can be seen on top of this rock and on several others in the scene.
The false-color enhancement increases the contrast between different rock and soil types on the Martian surface.
A dark circle (measuring 2 inches in diameter) is left by Opportunity's rock abrasion tool followin the two-month examination of the rock named "Marquette Island. Studies of texture and composition suggest that this rock, not much bigger than a basketball, originated deep inside the Martian crust. A crater-digging impact could have excavated the rock and thrown it a long distance, to where Opportunity found it along the rover's long trek across the Meridiani plain toward Endeavour Crater.
Opportunity uses the wire brush of its rock abrasion tool to scour dust from a circular target area on a rock called Marquette Island. This image of the brushed target area, called "Peck Bay," was taken by the rover's front hazard-avoidance camera.
This is a false-color image of a rock called "Block Island," the largest meteorite yet found on Mars about 2 feet across.
Analysis of Block Island's composition using Opportunity's alpha particle X-ray spectrometer, confirmed that it is rich in iron and nickel.
Opportunity used its navigation camera to take the images combined into a 360-degree view of the rover's surroundings on April 7, 2009, after driving away from an outcrop called "Penrhyn," and toward a crater called "Adventure."
This view shows tracks left by Opportunity from backing out of a wind-formed ripple after the rover's wheels had started to dig too deeply into the dust and sand, April 25, 2009).
Opportunity's twin rover, Spirit, was less fortunate. It became mired in sand and despite efforts by Earthbound drivers to extricate it, it has now been transitioned to a "Stationary Research Platform."
One such experiment is studying tiny variations in the rotation of Mars to gain insight about the planet's core. Tools on Spirit's robotic arm can also study variations in the composition of nearby soil, which has been affected by water. Stationary science also includes watching how wind moves soil particles and monitoring the Martian atmosphere.
This computer-artist's image of Opportunity inside the Endurance Crater (produced by combining a photorealistic model of the rover with a false-color mosaic taken by Opportunity's panoramic camera) provides a "virtual presence" that assists mission teams.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell; Rover model by Dan Maas, synthetic image by Zareh Gorjian, Koji Kuramura, Mike Stetson and Eric M. De Jong
This image from March 11, 2010 shows the view from Opportunity of the rim of Bopolu crater about 40 miles in the distance, on the southwestern horizon. Bopolu is about 12 miles in diameter, and lies beyond Opportunity's long-term destination, Endeavour crater. The rover's route takes it south before turning east in order to bypass potentially hazardous sand ripples to the east, larger than the ripples in the foreground of this image.
Opportunity drove four times in the last week, resting to recharge its solar-powered batteries. The distance covered totaled 853 feet. The rover still has about 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) further to drive before reaching Endeavour Crater (lower part of image).