Rovers on Mars have captured images of dust devils before, but this might be the best one we’ve ever seen.
When NASA's Opportunity rover paused to take in its surroundings earlier this month, it had quite a views. This is what it saw from the edge of the Endeavour Crater, a part of the planet that's been dubbed Marathon Valley.
Eleven years ago today—in fact, at this very minute (12:05 am ET)—NASA's Opportunity rover touched down on Mars for what was supposed to be a 90-day mission. Since then, Opportunity has proven to be an engineering marvel by traveling almost 26 miles on the Martian surface, more than any other off-Earth surface vehicle.
NASA's Opportunity rover is still trundling across the surface of Mars, more than 11 years after its 90 day mission began. But its software is getting bogged down, so NASA's doing a full system backup, memory wipe, and reboot. It's just like your routine computer cleanup, just from the next planet over.
The Opportunity rover has been trekking across the Martian surface since 2004, but this past Sunday its odometer clicked past the 25-mile (40-km) mark, establishing a new off-world distance record. It's a remarkable achievement — so whose record did it smash?
Not to be outdone by Curiosity, the Opportunity rover has made one of its most significant scientific discoveries to date. A recent analysis of clay minerals indicates that neutral water once existed on Mars — water that could have been suitable for life.
It's one of the most impressive photographs of Mars' Endeavour crater ever taken, but the image featured here is special for another reason, as well: it features the photographer (or, at least, the photographer's shadow).
For the last three years, NASA's Opportunity Rover has been slowly making its way to Mars's Endeavour Crater, and now it's finally made it. Here's one of the first photographs from this alien crater...but the real work is just beginning.