Nasa's Rover on Mars

NASA's Rover on Mars

For many decades, Mars has been one of the most interesting destinations for space travel and investigation. Being a similar size and composition to our own planet, scientists one day hope for Mars to be a candidate to support life if need be. Before it is at all possible to see if this optimistic future goal is obtainable or simply science fiction, a variety of questions must first be answered: scientists are interested in whether or not life was ever on Mars; it is necessary for scientists to fully understand the climate of Mars; and scientists must answer questions about the planet’s geology. The limits of current technology and funding prevent human exploration on planet Mars, but it has not meant that scientists haven’t put a great deal of effort into attempts to answer these questions in a more realistic way. Currently, the NASA Rover missions have provided the most insight into the geology, climate and history or Mars. On July 4, 1997, the first Mars rover, Pathfinder, landed, but could only maintain communications until September of the same year. Though the success of Pathfinder was short lived, NASA would not abandon its mission to gain more understanding about Mars.

NASA’s second rover missions to Mars were headline news in 2003. The rovers launched and in January of 2004, both of the rovers landed. While the nation could take great pride in this astronomical feat, the actions of the rovers became less known as the years have passed. In actuality, a little known fact is that one of the rovers is still active today. The two rovers, Opportunity and Spirit were originally commissioned for a 90-sol (90 Mars days) mission where they would record the landscape and composition of the planet’s surface. The goal was originally to roam Mars for three months, in hopes of finding some clues about the planet’s history, but being solar powered vehicles however, the rovers were able to maintain power and extend the mission well beyond its initial frame. The Spirit was active until 2009, when it unfortunately became incapable of further movement. The spirit continued communications as stationary piece of equipment until 2010. The Opportunity is still active today, which prompts many to wonder what exactly the rover is up to.

In the most basic sense, the Opportunity has been slowly moving across Mars’s surface. After seven years on Mars, the rover has only traveled around 11 miles. In that relatively short distance, the Opportunity and its decommissioned twin rover Spirit have made a variety of discoveries. The rovers discovered the first asteroid on another planet, known as Heat Shield Rock. In addition opportunity has done a great deal or geological research by exploring various craters on the planet. From October 2005 to March 2006, Opportunity explored the Erebus crater and it explored the Victoria crater from September 2006 to August 2008. Currently the Opportunity is in the process of approaching the Endeavor crater, where it will continue to take geological samples.

Nothing is for certain, but the future of the Opportunity Mars rover seems bright. Scientists are amazed that the rover is still functioning today and will continue to use the rover as long as possible. As the Opportunity enters the Endeavor crater, hopes of important discoveries bubble in the stomachs of the NASA scientists who have lead this mission for more than seven years.

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