Oppy rocks on…

Ask most people what they know about Mars and they’ll reply with something along the lines of “There’s a rover just landed on it, looking for signs of life”. If they’re a little better informed they’ll add that they’ve heard it has found evidence of water running across the surface of Mars in the past, and might even have heard about the rover finding bits of plastic on the ground. The rover in question is Curiosity, of course. Alnmost 3 months after landing she’s still in the news, which is how it should be, she’s an incredible machine, and her mission is fascinating.


What people don’t know, or seem to have forgotten, is that long before Curiosity’s monster truck wheels touched down on Mars, another, smaller, less sophisticated rover was already on Mars, exploring, making textbook-scrapping discoveries, and showing us the beauty of Mars as seen from the eroded rim of an acient impact crater. Opportunity landed on Mars in January 2004, and has driven more than 35km on the red planet since then, an absolutely stunning achievement – and she’s not done yet, not by a long shot. As you read this she’s working her way up a slope towards another fascinating-looking outcrop of ancient, eroded martian rock near the top of Cape York, with Mars’ enormous butterscotch sky above her, and the huge bowl of Endeavour crater behind her…

Don’t forget, when Oppy landed on Mars it was hoped she would last 90 days on the harsh surface of that world, and we all had our fingers crossed that she’d live long enough to drive a kilometre or so across the Meridiani Plain. All these years later she’s driven to and studied several craters, crossed vast deserts of windblown dunes, survived dust storms, and is now exploring the largest crater seen during the entire MER mission. It’s a stunning success, and it deserves to be shouted from the rooftops by everyone interested in Mars just as much as Curiosity’s successes are being celebrated.

And, in my opinion, Opportunity’s ongoing mission needs to be acknowledged more by NASA itself, and celebrated more, a lot more, too.

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1 Response to Oppy rocks on…

  1. Birgit says:

    That`s right, absolutely, Stu ! Cury is great, but Oppy is my “Senior- Honey ” !!!!

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