NASA's Opportunity ain't dead yet

Opportunity landed on Mars in 2004. Its mission was scheduled to last 90 Martian days. It's obviously exceeded that, and just when we all thought it was time to say goodbye — just as we did with Opportunity's twin rover, Spirit — the little rover that could braved a fifth Martian winter to declare, yes, there's life on Mars, and its name is Opportunity.

Opportunity has been sitting in the same spot since Dec. 26 of last year. The outcropping is called Greeley Haven, and it was an advantageous spot for Opportunity to park as it gets a lot of sunlight. On May 8, NASA managed to drive its rover 12 feet forward, sending it into some sand below the rock formation.

Even during a winter that was supposed to put Opportunity out to pasture, it's been doing work, according to a missive from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory:

While at Greeley Haven for the past 19 weeks, Opportunity used the spectrometers and microscopic imager on its robotic arm to inspect more than a dozen targets within reach on the outcrop. Radio Doppler signals from the stationary rover during the winter months served an investigation of the interior of Mars by providing precise information about the planet's rotation.

Opportunity will look back with its panoramic camera to acquire multi-filter imaging of the surface targets it studied on Greeley Haven.

The plan now, however, is to leave Greeley Haven behind and examine several promising looking sites nearby the craft, from "a bright-looking patch of what may be dust," as said by JPL's Matt Golombek, to hunting down ancient clays.

It all depends on how much power Opportunity is able to gather, though dust on the explorer's solar arrays will slow it down for a while, unless a lucky gust of wind blows it away.

Whatever happens next, Opportunity doesn't ever want to hear you say "goodbye," only "see you later."

NASA JPL, via Automaton

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