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Once merely the gleam in a NASA engineer’s eye, the Mars Opportunity Rover celebrated a milestone birthday this week as it reached an astounding 13 years since landing on the Red Planet.
The surprisingly hardy space explorer reached Mars on January 25, 2004 and has been amazing NASA scientists ever since.
Beyond a wealth of scientific insights that could have only been gained from on-the-ground research, the Opportunity Rover has also provided a dazzling array of images from Mars over the last 13 years.
But it is those 13 years that may be the most incredible aspect of Opportunity’s time on the Red Planet as the craft was originally only expected to be operational for 90 days!
As such, the rover has lasted longer than a jaw-dropping 50 times its life expectancy and, despite showing its age for an interstellar craft, the mission appears to be showing no signs of slowing down.
During its tween years, Opportunity continued to make history by breaking the record for furthest distance ever traveled by a manmade rover on another world.
And, in what may be our favorite contribution from Opportunity, it also is credited with capturing an image of what appears to be a handgun on Mars last year.
So congratulations to the seemingly indefatigable rover as it enters its teenage years and, hopefully, humans will be on Mars by 2025 so that they can celebrate the rover’s 21st birthday with a beer.