|This is how the Spirit and Opportunity bouncy balls rolled on their landings. The technology is still amazing, but it seems like stone knives and bearskins in comparison with the Curiosity skycrane landing platform.|
Here is the official press release noting the first signal from Opportunity on January 25, 2004.
NASA's second Mars Exploration Rover successfully sent signals to Earth during its bouncy landing and after it came to rest on one of the three side petals of its four-sided lander.
Mission engineers at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., received the first signal from Opportunity on the ground at 9:05 p.m. Pacific Standard Time Saturday via the NASA Deep Space Network, which was listening with antennas in California and Australia.
"We're on Mars, everybody!" JPL's Rob Manning, manager for development of the landing system, announced to the cheering flight team.
NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe said at a subsequent press briefing, "This was a tremendous testament to how NASA, when really focused on an objective, can put every ounce of effort, energy, emotion and talent to an important task. This team is the best in the world, no doubt about it."
I remember reading the news that came out after the mission extension press release. Having Spirit and Opportunity on overtime at day 90 was amazing then. Getting one of these rovers to year nine was inconceivable at the time.
NASA Extends Rover Mission - April 8, 2004
(excerpts from press release)
"Given the rovers' tremendous success, the project submitted a proposal for extending the mission, and we have approved it," said Orlando Figueroa, Mars Exploration Program director at NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
"Once Opportunity finishes its 91st sol, everything we get from the rovers after that is a bonus," said Dr. Firouz Naderi, manager of Mars exploration at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., where the rovers were built and are controlled. "Even though the extended mission is approved to September, and the rovers could last even longer, they also might stop in their tracks next week or next month. They are operating under extremely harsh conditions. However, while Spirit is past its 'warranty,' we look forward to continued discoveries by both rovers in the months ahead."
At the time of this writing, we are still several days away from the ninth anniversary. Here is the eight anniversary press release.
Opportunity Eight Anniversary Press Release
JPL posted an image of the view from Opportunity on its eight anniversary. Mars is only a little less lonely with the arrival of Curiosity.
JPL continues to provide regular mission updates at http://marsrover.nasa.gov/mission/status_opportunityAll.html As of January 10th, Opportunity is in great shape with some memory cache issues similar to problems Spirit had in its first year. After waking up from a long Martian winter last May, it has been on the move and doing science. Fortunately, a good windstorm helped clean off the solar panels and increase power output to around 460 watt hours. For perspective, Opportunity is working on just enough energy required to run one toaster slot and has run on far less depending on dust buildup, season and atmospheric opacity.
Update: On January 24, JPL posted a fresh image of Opportunity hard at work on Mars on Twitter. Great job, Opportunity!
|Nine years on and still doing science... happy dance!|
|A high resolution version of this image is available at http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/pia16703|
Once again, here are images to compare and contrast generations of Mars rovers from the U.S. First, here are proving ground models of each rover. We've gone from something the size of a dog to a nuclear pile powered, laser equipped laboratory in a very short time.
And, as a contrast, here is my favorite rendering of the Curiosity landing platform. This is a long way from the bouncy rover approach of prior generations.
I'm wrapping up this entry the day before the 2013 Inauguration. The NASA "Mohawk Guy" will be marching in the parade with part of the mission team and a Curiosity model. Here is the model getting some finishing touches.
As for the Inauguration, my spousal unit, MEK of the House Full of Nerds, is in D.C. and just send some preview images of the bleachers I scored tickets for. She is taking a friend and will get to sit right across from the White House! I try to keep this blog as a Casablanca style politics neutral zone. If you are interested, I posted photos from my trip to the 2009 Inauguration at
Update: The NASA photo set from the Inauguration parade is at
Yes, this post is supposed to be about Opportunity. Ultimately, each rover generation is a stepping stone to the next. I can't wait to see what our technology looks like in 2030!