Artist’s view of Opportunity rover – still wheeling and dealing with Mars.
Credit: NASA/JPL

NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover has just passed 14 years of exploring the Red Planet.

The robot has been working on Mars since landing in Meridiani Planum on January 25, 2004.

Originally intended to last 90 days, the machine is still trekking and is continuing her winter exploration of “Perseverance Valley” on the west rim of Endeavour Crater from a location in the north fork of the local flow channel.

Opportunity Front Hazcam image taken on Sol 4979.
Credit: NASA/JPL

Flight software update

On Sol 4977 (Jan. 23, 2018), Opportunity received the latest version of flight software, copied over the older fallback version in preparation for a flight software update scheduled for later in the year.

On Sol 4970 (Jan. 16, 2018), Opportunity benefited from a significant dust cleaning of the solar arrays, which happens this time of year. The rover’s robotic arm, its Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS), and Microscopic Imager (MI) continue to be utilized.

Opportunity Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 4978.
Credit: NASA/JPL


Opportunity has moved along the north fork of the local flow channel. It spent several sols completing stereo, color panoramas, performed targeted 13-filter imaging, as well as wheeling to selected surface targets for closer investigation.

Batteries: signs of aging

Earlier in the month, ground controllers prepared and executed a test of the Zero Degree Heater (ZDH) on the rover’s batteries.

“Opportunity’s batteries have performed very well over the mission’s lifetime but are showing some signs of aging. Martian environment is quite cold and it was suspected that warming the battery during the recharge process may make the battery both more effective and degrade slower,” according to a JPL Opportunity Update.

Odometry reading

Though never used in flight, the ZDH was intended to warm the battery.

Most recent traverse map for Opportunity rover.
Credit: NASA/JPL

“Since it has never been turned on in flight we wanted to be very cautious before using it operationally and so a testing campaign was formulated. The first original test in this campaign was to turn it on briefly, manually (as opposed to thermostatically), and in a controlled and recoverable (in the case of a fault) setting,” the update notes. “This test was executed in the morning of Sol 4964 (Jan. 10, 2018), and appears to have been successful.”

Since touchdown on Mars, total odometry for the robot now stands at over 28 miles (45 kilometers).

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