Mars rover Opportunity hits 10-year mark (pictures)
Launched on July 7, 2003, with a modest goal to carry out 90 Martian days of exploration, NASA's little robotic wanderer far exceeded its original mission objectives.
Mars Exploration Rover-2
In the Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Mars Exploration Rover-2 (MER-2), better known as Opportunity, undergoes testing prior to its launch 10 years ago on July 7, 2003.
Opportunity finally landed on the Meridiani Planum, an open plain just off the equator of Mars, on January 25, 2004, three weeks after its twin rover, Spirit.
With an original mission to explore the red planet for a duration of 90 Martian days, called sols, the robotic explorer has far exceeded its original mission objectives.
After landing on January 25, 2004, this image was one of the first views returned from NASA's Opportunity rover.
"Opportunity has touched down in a bizarre, alien landscape," said Steve Squyres of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., principal investigator for the science instruments on Opportunity and its twin, Spirit. "I'm flabbergasted. I'm astonished. I'm blown away."
This iron meteorite -- now known as Heat Shield Rock -- discovered on Mars by Opportunity in 2005, is the first meteorite of any type ever found on another planet, identified by the onboard spectrometers as being composed primarily of iron and nickel.
The thick, dark-colored coating on this rock is one of many in the area covered with a similarly strange something. Scientists believe the coating could be remnants of a layer that was changed by the action of water and weather, or it could be a layer of rock that melted when a meteor impacted Mars.
Climbing out of the 800-meter-diameter Victoria Crater, Opportunity's navigation camera captured this view looking back into the crater just after finishing a 6.8-meter drive that brought Opportunity out onto level ground again on August 28, 2008.