The Mars Rover Opportunity is celebrating 12 years of exploring the red planet’s terrain. It has spent quite some time on the Martian landscape.
Its actual mission was for a period of 3 months only, but today it has overstayed its time period on the surface of Mars. The robotic vehicle celebrated 12 years of its existence on Mars on Monday.
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The robotic four wheeler has had a tough time on Mars, but it has managed to pull through. The southern portion of the planet Mars went into a winter solstice on January 2nd. That was the most limited and darkest day for the Mars rover.
"Opportunity has stayed very active this winter, in part because the solar arrays have been much cleaner than in the past few winters," said Mars Exploration Rover Project Manager John Callas, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.
Since the Mars Rover needed sunlight for its solar powered energy source, this was problematic. It had to be set up at such an angle that allowed it to soak up as much of the sunlight as possible.
There were a lot of frustrating issues for the ground crew as far as the Mars Rover is concerned. The red dust of Mars forms a layer on the solar instruments thereby making their job difficult indeed.
The solar energy that was being collected had slowed down to a small stream since the dust had collected to such a large extent over the 12 years.
An opportunity presented itself in the form of a cleaning window. The cleaning event was a chief component of the Mars Rover mission. The Opportunity Rover and its cousin the Spirit Rover have explored the surface features of Mars thoroughly.
Most of the dust devils and howling winds on Mars surface have served as cleaning agents for the solar panels on these rovers. The Opportunity rover has remained active all throughout the Martian winter.
This is because the solar panels are clear this time around. The Mars Rover has lent us clues as to the wet and cold environment of Mars.
The nature of robotics has also been thoroughly analyzed thanks to this scheme of things. The biggest problem right now is the flash memory of the rover.
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It was not meant to last such a long time and it is fading away fast which could prove to be an issue alright. Despite the limited functions of the rover, science is still being done by this curious machine on Mars.