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Opportunity Rover Marks 5,000th Sol On Mars With Selfie

 opportunity rover selfie

PSI’s Aileen Yingst was in the driver’s seat Feb. 15 directing the science activities for NASA’s Opportunity Rover as it spent its 5,000th day exploring the Martian surface. Yingst served as Science Operations Working Group chairperson running the group that decided what the rover did that sol, or Martian day. 

The rover’s mission has far exceeded the 90 sols for which it was initially scheduled when it landed on Mars Jan. 25, 2004. A Martian "sol" lasts about 40 minutes longer than an Earth day, and a Martian year lasts nearly two Earth years. 

Yingst said she never imagined the rover would continue to function this long. “Absolutely not, but not because I lacked faith in the engineering. Simply put, rocket science is difficult and risky; Principal Investigator Steve Squyres compared working on a rover to doing geology with a sniper over your shoulder,” she said. 

“There’s no landed mission that compare to NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover program’s longevity and resilience, and that’s due to the people who work so hard and give up their weekends and off-hours to solve the insolvable and work around the unworkable,” said Yingst, who has worked on MER since 2006. Several other PSI scientists also work on the MER program. 

“I headed up the science planning for what Opportunity did during sol 5,000,” said Yingst, who is an Associate Principal Investigator for the rover. “The rover got a nice selfie shot to mark the day. We also imaged a channel in which the rover has been driving. It’s another day at the office, but the office is millions of miles away. Science on Mars is always special, amazing, incredible and different.” 

Above, NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity took this selfie during its 5,000th sol on the Martian surface. This is a composite of 17 images, acquired by the rover’s Microscopic Imager. 

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

March 12, 2018
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