5,000 Days on Mars; Solar-Powered Rover Approaching 5,000th Martian Dawn

The Sun will rise on NASA’s solar-powered Mars rover
Opportunity for the
5,000th time on Saturday, sending rays of
energy to a golf-cart-size robotic
field geologist that
continues to provide revelations about the Red Planet.

“Five thousand sols after the start of our 90-sol mission,
amazing rover is still showing us surprises on Mars,”
said Opportunity Project
Manager John Callas, of NASA’s Jet
Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

A Martian “sol” lasts about 40 minutes longer than an Earth
day, and a Martian year lasts nearly two Earth years.
Opportunity’s Sol 1 was
landing day, Jan. 25, 2004 (that’s in
Universal Time; it was Jan. 24 in
California). The prime
mission was planned to last 90 sols. NASA did not expect
rover to survive through a Martian winter. Sol 5,000 will begin
early Friday,
Universal Time, with the 4,999th dawn a few
hours later. Opportunity has worked
actively right through the
lowest-energy months of its eighth Martian winter.

From the rover’s perspective on the inside slope of the western
rim of
Endeavour Crater, the milestone sunrise will appear
over the basin’s eastern
rim, about 14 miles (22 kilometers)
away. Opportunity has driven over 28 miles
(45 kilometers)
from its landing site to its current location about one-third
of the way down “Perseverance Valley,” a shallow channel
incised from
the rim’s crest of the crater’s floor. The rover
has returned about 225,000
images, all promptly made public

“We’ve reached lots of milestones, and this is one more,”
Callas said, “but more important than the numbers are the
exploration and
the scientific discoveries.”

The mission made headlines during its first months with the
about groundwater and surface water environments on
ancient Mars. Opportunity trekked
to increasingly larger
craters to look deeper into Mars and father back into
history, reaching Endeavour Crater in 2011. Researchers are now
the rover to investigate the processes that shaped
Perseverance Valley.

For more about Opportunity’s adventures and discoveries, see:



News Media Contact

Guy Webster / Andrew Good
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
818-354-6278 / 818-393-2433
guy.webster@jpl.nasa.gov / andrew.c.good@jpl.nasa.gov

Laurie Cantillo / Dwayne Brown
NASA Headquarters, Washington
202-358-1077 / 202-358-1726
laura.l.cantillo@nasa.gov / dwayne.c.brown@nasa.gov