The Opportunity rover just celebrated 5,000 ‘sols’ on the Martian surface

Mars rover Opportunity
The mission to Mars was only supposed to last about three months — apparently the Opportunity rover didn’t get the message. On February 17, 2018 the golf-cart-sized rover watched the sun rise on the red planet for the 5,000th time.

A “sol” is a Martian day, and it’s about 40 minutes longer than an Earth day. A year on Mars lasts nearly two Earth years. Mission planners didn’t expect Opportunity to survive even one Martian winter; it’s now in the middle of its eighth.

“We’ve reached lots of milestones, and this is one more, but more important than the numbers are the exploration and the scientific discoveries,” said John Callas of JPL in a statement announcing the achievement.

Opportunity and its twin rover Spirit were both launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in 2003. They landed on opposite sides of the planet in January 2004. NASA and the engineers at JPL knew there was a good possibility that the missions would last longer than 90 sols, because the rovers could clean away the Martian dust accumulating in their solar panels.

The rovers made some valuable discoveries about Mars during their lengthy stay. Observations confirmed that there was once water on Mars, and that it was once a habitable planet. They uncovered evidence of meteorite impacts and revealed new discoveries about the Martian atmosphere.

The rover Sprint broke one of its wheels in 2004 but continued to drag itself around. In 2009, it became trapped in soft sand and could not extricate itself as dust began to build up on the solar panels. It fell silent in 2010 and NASA declared it officially dead a year later.

But Opportunity keeps on trucking. According to Science Trends, Opportunity has traveled 27 miles since landing on the red planet, beating the previous record for longest distance traveled off our planet, which had been held by the Soviet lunar rover Lunokhod 2. The rover has sent 225,000 images back to its home planet in the past 14 years, including a 360-degree panorama on its 10-year anniversary.

As reported, it’s still making new discoveries as well. A pattern of rock stripes found in January in an area known as Perseverance Valley has scientists intrigued. “I don’t know what these stripes are, and I don’t think anyone else knows for sure what they are, so we’re entertaining multiple hypotheses and gathering more data to figure it out,” said Robert Sullivan of Cornell University.

“Five thousand sols after the start of our 90-sol mission, this amazing rover is still showing us surprises on Mars,” said Callas.


Dell’s 75-inch monitor is a Surface Hub competitor built for the classroom

Dell's new 75 4K Interactive Touch Monitor is a 75-inch display that's built for classroom collaboration. With multi-touch and pen input support, Dell is positioning its new display as an alternative to Microsoft's Surface Hub.

Microsoft targets Chrome OS with $189 Windows 10 laptops for education

Microsoft announced seven new low-cost Windows 10 laptops, all priced under $300 to take on Chromebooks and iPads in the education market, along with a new Microsoft Allora stylus for students using the Surface Go tablet.
Emerging Tech

Saturn didn’t always have rings, according to new analysis of Cassini data

Saturn's rings are younger than previously believed, according to new data gathered from the Cassini mission. The rings are certainly less than 100 million years old and perhaps as young as 10 million years old.
Emerging Tech

How long is a day on Saturn? Scientists finally have an answer

The length of Saturn's day has always been a challenge to calculate because of the planet's non-solid surface and magnetic field. But now scientists have tracked vibrations in the rings to pin down a final answer.
Emerging Tech

ANYmal dog robot can get back on its feet when someone pushes it over

Roboticists at ETH Zurich have demonstrated how their ANYmal four-legged robot is capable of taking a kicking and keeping on walking -- or getting back to its feet if it's pushed over.
Emerging Tech

A.I. finds non-infringing ways to copy drugs pharma spends billions developing

Researchers have demonstrated an artificial intelligence which can find new methods for producing existing pharmaceuticals in a way that doesn’t infringe on existing patents. Here's how.
Emerging Tech

Coinstar machines will let you swap cash for Bitcoin at your local grocery store

Coinstar, the company which owns the coin exchange machines found at grocery stores and elsewhere, will soon let you easily buy Bitcoin with your cash money. Here's how it will work.
Emerging Tech

Facebook hasn’t given up on the idea of building an internet drone

Facebook's efforts to provide internet connectivity from the skies using solar-powered drones suffered a blow last year when the company abandoned its "Aquila" drone project. But the company clearly hasn't given up on the idea.
Emerging Tech

World’s biggest fleet of campus delivery robots now transporting student meals

The world’s largest fleet of delivery robots on a university campus is coming to Fairfax County, Virginia’s George Mason University. Here's how the ordering and delivery process plays out.

Smart luggage does it all with wireless charger, built-in scale, GPS tracking

The SkyValet smart luggage, currently being funded on Kickstarter, offers solutions to many common travel struggles. With SkyValet, you no longer need separate portable chargers, a scale to weigh your bag, a lock, or a tracking device. It's…
Emerging Tech

The CRISPR baby saga continues as China confirms second gene-edited pregnancy

China’s official Xinhua news agency has confirmed that a second woman has become pregnant as part of a controversial experiment to create the world’s first genetically edited babies.
Emerging Tech

Elon Musk offers to help dig CERN’s new particle collider tunnel

CERN plans to put the Large Hadron Collider to shame with its proposed much larger Future Circular Collider -- and Elon Musk wants to help. Because, you know, he's not busy enough.
Emerging Tech

Once again, a drone has reportedly caused a shutdown at a major airport

Reported drone sightings near New Jersey's Newark Liberty International Airport forced flights to be halted early Tuesday evening. One of the drones reportedly came within 30 feet of an aircraft.
Emerging Tech

Scientists find a way to create a renewable supply of cancer-fighting T cells

In a major advance for "off-the-shelf" cancer therapies, UCLA researchers have shown that it's possible to create T cells with important cancer-killing receptors from pluripotent stem cells.