Slice of History - 20th Anniversary of Spirit & Opportunity
On Launch Complex 17-B, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the Delta II Heavy launch vehicle carrying the rover "Opportunity,” or “Oppy,” for the second Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission launched 7 July 2003 at 11:18:15PM EDT. Opportunity reached Mars on 25 January 2004. Together the two identical MER rovers, Spirit (launched about a month prior, on 10 June) and Opportunity, were tasked to determine the history of climate and water at two sites on Mars where conditions may once have been favorable to life. They navigated themselves around obstacles as they drove across the Martian surface, traveling up to about 130 feet each Martian day. Each rover carried five scientific instruments, including a panoramic camera and microscope, plus a rock abrasion tool that ground away the outer surfaces of rocks to expose their interiors for examination.
Each rover’s prime mission was planned to last three months on Mars, but Oppy far outlasted this plan, and explored the Martian terrain for almost fifteen years. Oppy stopped communicating with Earth when a severe Mars-wide dust storm blanketed its location in June 2018. After more than a thousand commands to restore contact, Oppy and JPL were cut off from each other, and engineers’ last attempt to revive the rover took place on 13 February 2019, and received her final communication 10 June 2019, exactly sixteen years after her twin, Spirit, launched. CL#22-6160
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