Happy anniversary to the baddest of the bots, NASA's Opportunity rover. It's been 11 years since the explorer touched down on Mars to look for signs of water and life.
Eleven years is a long time for a space robot, but especially for Opportunity. Its original mission was only meant to last three months.
That means that Opportunity has lasted 44 times longer than planned. Talk about getting some serious bang for your buck!
Being a bajillion years old in space robot years doesn't come without issues. Earlier this month NASA announced that the rover was experiencing technical issues -- a sort of robotic "amnesia" -- and needed a software tune-up to set things right.
But even with the burdens brought about by old-age, Opportunity still made it to Cape Tribulation, a high point of the crater it's been exploring since 2011. And it raised its built-in flag, made of aluminum recovered from the Twin Towers after the events of 9/11 and included in memory of the victims.
In honor of Opportunity's big day, NASA has released three versions of a high quality panorama taken by the bot from Cape Tribulation. The first is in close to true color, the second in false color to show the terrain more clearly, and the third is in 3D (just in case you're into that).
I have to admit that Opportunity holds a special place in my heart, as far as space robots go, and not just because of its tenacity.
My dad actually helped create parts for Spirit and Opportunity, and (allegedly) put the names of everyone in my family on one of the landing airbags, or something. The details are fuzzy, sorry, I was like 10 at the time, and my dad can't be reached for comment because he's busy building space robots or rockets or whatever (ugh, dad).
Anyway, I'm pretty sure that means it's my robot. And I'm very proud of it. If Opportunity can get over its little memory lag in the next few weeks, there's no telling how much more it might accomplish.
Check out the video at the top of the post for more on Opportunity's success.