We have completed maintenance on DiscoverMagazine.com and action may be required on your account. Learn More

Opportunity's Finest Moments on Mars

A look back at the rover's more than 15 years of exploration on the Red Planet.

Feb 13, 2019 6:00 AMNov 20, 2019 10:14 PM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news
Photo Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.

Opportunity took this false color panorama looking down onto Marathon Valley from an overlook near Endurance Crater in March 2015.

Once the rover reached the valley, it had traveled the equivalent of an Olympic Marathon.

Photo Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.

After 10 years on Mars, Opportunity accumulated a thick coat of red dust, as seen in the self-portrait on the left in early January 2014.

But the thin Martian atmosphere does have wind, and two months later, that wind blew much of the dust off the spacecraft, thus improving the performance of the solar panels that gather power for the rover.

Photo Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.

In late March 2016, on its 4,332nd Martian day, the rover looked back on the tracks it made while climbing Knudsen Ridge and spotted a distant dust devil.

During its drive up the hill, the rover tilted up to 32 degrees from horizontal, the steepest terrain for any rover on Mars.

Photo Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.

Still working hard in early January 2016, Opportunity extended its tool arm to examine a target dubbed Private John Potts, named after a member of the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery expedition of 1804 to 1806.


On its way from Erebus Crater to Victoria Crater, Opportunity encountered terrain consisting of large sand ripples and patches of flat-lying rock outcrops. Opportunity acquired images for this false-color mosaic April 8, 2006.

This view shows a portion of the outcrop named Bosque, fractured and finely layered outcrop rocks, smaller, dark cobbles littered across the surface, and rover wheel tracks.


NASA’s Opportunity rover acquired this high-resolution view of Victoria Crater on Sept. 28, 2006. The rover looks north from Duck Bay toward the promontory called Cape Verde. The dramatic cliff of layered rock lies 165 feet (50 meters) from the rover and measures approximately 20 feet (6m) high.

The higher promontory beyond lies about 325 feet (100m) away, and the vista extends for more than 1,300 feet (400m). Opportunity’s panoramic camera took this approximate true-color image using three of the camera’s color filters.

Photo Credits: NASA/JPL/University of Arizona

NASA’s Opportunity rover stands watch over Victoria Crater in this image taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). This view, snapped in October 2006, offered the public a taste of what NASA’s Mars probe would eventually deliver.

The 0.5-mile-wide (800 meters) impact scar is just south of Mars’ equator. Erosion and rock slides there created Victoria’s distinctive scalloped rim. Those layered sedimentary rocks lie exposed along the crater’s inner wall, and fallen boulders dot the wall’s base. A striking field of sand dunes dominates the crater’s floor.

MRO took this image from an altitude of 166 miles (267 km), revealing objects as small as 32 inches (81 cm) across.

Photo Credits: NASA/JPL/Cornell

Burns Cliff forms Endurance’s southeastern wall. Taken between November 13 and 20, 2004, this wide-angle mosaic makes the cliff appear to bulge inward.


Opportunity’s landing platform sits in Eagle Crater, where it came to rest 24 sols, or Mars days, before this image was taken (February 17, 2004).

After touchdown, mission controllers renamed the lander the Challenger Memorial Station, in honor of the astronauts who died in the space-shuttle disaster in January 1986.

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!


Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 40% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2024 Kalmbach Media Co.