Thir‘teen’ on Mars: NASA rover Opportunity becomes Red Planet’s first 13-year-old

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The golf-cart-size Mars rover Opportunity, which landed on the Red Planet on the night of January 24, 2004, turned 13 on Tuesday night.

During its initial days, the two six-wheeled robots embarked on 90-day missions to hunt for signs of past water activity. Opportunity soon found plenty of such evidence, showing that Mars was warmer and wetter in the ancient past than it is today.

Opportunity, along with the Curiosity rover, is one of two active robots on the Red Planet's surface.

Opportunity kept on rolling long after its warranties had expired. Armed with an arthritic robotic arm and issues with its flash memory, the rover continues to extend its record for the greatest distance traveled on the surface of another world. As of January 16, Opportunity's odometer marked 43.79 kilometers.

Since 2011, Opportunity has been exploring the rim of the 22 km-wide Endeavour Crater. Its next major destination is a possibly water-carved gully about 1 km south.

A life cycle begins

A life cycle begins

Opportunity descends on Mars' Meridiani Planum in 2004. Image Credit: NASA/JPL

Dune blues

Dune blues

Opportunity stuck in a dune on Mars. It took engineers more than a month to free the rover. Image Credit: NASA/JPL

As vast as the sky

As vast as the sky

This panorama is the view NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity gained from the top of the 'Cape Tribulation' segment of the rim of Endeavour Crater. Image Credit: NASA/JPL

A lonely Christmas

A lonely Christmas

Opportunity scans around and across to vast Endeavour crater on December 19, 2016, as she climbs steep slopes on the way to reach a water carved gully along the eroded craters western rim. Image Credit: NASA/JPL

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