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NASA Mars Exploration Program
Mars Exploration Program

Revealing Mars: Opportunity

If there were overtime on Mars, the Opportunity rover would be cashing in for a job well done! The original goal was to explore for three months, but NASA extended the mission many times over. Eleven years later, the little rover is still going strong. Opportunity is now at the rim of Endeavour Crater where water-bearing minerals may just be within reach. Take a look at some of the magical views from the last decade.

Click on Left Image/Right Image for additional image details.

Dusty Rover Selfie

These two self-portraits show dust settling on the rover solar panels in January 2014 (left) and wiped clean by wind in late March 2014 (right). More dust equals less sun and reduced power for operations, so we like to see clean panels!

You Dirty RAT

This is a tool at the end of Opportunity's arm called the Rat Abrasion Tool, RAT, for short. The team uses the RAT to brush rock surfaces. Opportunity took the image on the left on the 29th martian day, or sol, of the mission (Feb. 22, 2004). It shows a brand new shiny RAT tool. Three days later, on sol 31 (Feb. 25, 2004), the rover took the image on the right, showing a dirty tool, smudged with reddish-martian soil.

Martian Blueberries

Opportunity discovered these round rock spheres at its landing site. Scientists dubbed them "blueberries." These spheres form in water and are embedded in rock outcrops. Opportunity took these images just three months upon arriving at Mars on sol 84 (April 19, 2004). These Martian spherules are nicknamed "blueberries," due to their blue appearance in false-color images like this one on the right.

Stone Mountain

These images show the rock outcrop "Stone Mountain" near Opportunity's landing site. Upon closer inspection, tiny spheres or "blueberries," are scattered in and around the rock. The colors in the false-color image on the right are exaggerated to show the differences in color between the rock and granular spherules.

Brushing A Mars Rock

This image shows the rock "Guadalupe" before and after using the rock abrasion tool, or RAT, at the end of the rover's robotic arm. The image on the left is from sol 27 (Feb. 20, 2004), and shows the rock prior to drilling. The image on the right is from sol 35 (Feb. 29, 2004), and shows the rock after drilling with lots of red dust!

Mars Doughnut Found

This is not a doughnut, but a piece of rock the rover flipped over during a drive. It became famous when it suddenly appeared out of nowhere in rover images and people starting calling it "Jelly Doughnut" because of its shape and color. The image on the left is a raw, unprocessed image from sol 3,528 (Dec. 27, 2013). The false-color image on the right is from sol 3,567 (Feb. 4, 2014).

Mars Meteorite

This is the "Block Island" meteorite discovered by Opportunity. It is the largest of the few meteorites the rover's have found on Mars. The iron-nickel meteorite is about the size of a small ice chest. The black and white image (left) is from sol 1,961 (July 31, 2004). The false-color image on the right highlights the different rock and mineral types on the meteorite.

Endurance Crater's Dazzling Dunes

As Opportunity crept deeper into "Endurance Crater," the dune field on the crater floor appears even more dramatic. The true-color image on the left highlights the reddish-colored dust present throughout Mars, while the false-color image on the right shows how much more dust has piled up on the flanks of the dunes then in the flat surfaces in between. The bluish color in between dunes is due to the mineral hematite or "blueberries" accumulating on the flat surfaces.

A Dust Cleaning Event

A sundial like this one is on Opportunity and its twin rover, Spirit on Mars. The team uses the sundial to calibrate the camera's true color. Over time, dust piles up on the sundial and is swept away clean by wind events. The image on the left is from sol 23 (Feb. 16, 2004), while the one on the right is from a year later, sol 346 (Jan. 13, 2005), and shows just how much dust has accumulated on the rover.