NASA's Opportunity rover has just marked its 5,000th day, or "sol," on the Red Planet, a tremendous accomplishment.
It has been more than 14 years since NASA’s Opportunity rover landed on Mars back on Jan. 25, 2004, originally planned to last just 90 “sols” (a Martian day). But the incredible rover has just marked its 5,000th sol roving the Red Planet, a stunning accomplishment that puts an exclamation point on one of the most successful NASA projects in history.
The Opportunity rover has been exploring the Perseverance Valley region near the Endeavor Crater, where it arrived back in 2011. A Martian sol doesn’t exactly line up with Earth days, as sols are about 40 minutes longer. Also, one Martian year is about two Earth years.
NASA had only planned 90 sols for Opportunity because they did not think the rover, which relies on solar power, could endure a Martian winter. But they were quite wrong, and they named the region “Perserverance Valley” in honor of Opportunity’s incredible endurance on the Martian surface. The rover has endured eight Martian winters and saw its 5,000th sol on Feb. 17.
“Five thousand sols after the start of our 90-sol mission, this amazing rover is still showing us surprises on Mars,” said Opportunity Project Manager John Callas, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.