When Opportunity’s 5000th day dawned in February, it was a meaningful milestone for the team, and it led to a personal first for the veteran robot field geologist that has chalked up so many firsts she’s set the standard for Mars rovers.
In January, Opportunity quietly completed 14 years of surface operations on Mars—the longest-lived robot on another planet.
With the Martian winter on the run, Opportunity cruised closer to its 14th anniversary of exploring the Red Planet in December as she deliberated a distinctive “fork in the road” deep in Perseverance Valley and wrapped another record year.
Opportunity continued the historic winter science campaign inside Perseverance Valley and delivered the goods that confirmed an important discovery in November, and then cruised through winter solstice, driving the mission closer to its 14th anniversary of surface operations coming up in January.
As brutally cold got even colder at Endeavour Crater in October, the depths of winter gripped Opportunity, and ‘life’ on Mars slowed. But the robot field geologist continued to work on through the doldrums of the season.
The Martian winter began to grip Endeavour Crater in September, slowing Opportunity's pace. But she braved the brutal cold in Perseverance Valley and followed her commands to visually document everything in sight.
Along the western rim of Endeavour Crater, Opportunity forged onward in August vicariously taking the Mars Exploration Rovers team – along with a global contingent of mission observers all around Earth – downhill into Perseverance Valley and deeper into a new chapter in this legendary expedition of the Red Planet.
After struggling to get her left front wheel unstuck in June, Opportunity quickly adapted to a new driving strategy and unabashedly cruised into Perseverance Valley in July.
The autumn skies over Endeavour Crater remained hazy as dust from the summer storms continued to rain down, but Opportunity encountered some unexpected and serious June gloom when her right front steering wheel jammed during the walkabout atop Perseverance Valley.
In another dynamic demonstration of what can be achieved when a team works together, Opportunity cruised to the top of Perseverance Valley, shot the moon, and drove into her 160th month of surface operations in May.
Opportunity spent the month of April 2017 outside the western rim of Endeavour Crater, cruising toward Cape Byron and Perseverance Valley, the centerpiece of its tenth extended mission.
After wrapping the final science investigations on the slopes of Cape Tribulation, Opportunity climbed up and over the rim of Endeavour Crater in March and embarked on the journey south toward its next science target: Perseverance Valley.
Driving the Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) mission further into its fourteenth year of surface operations, Opportunity continued hiking the slopes of Cape Tribulation in February and finally reached the crest of Endeavour Crater’s western rim.
2017 got off to a start that was unprecedented in every good way: Opportunity completed her 13th Earth year of surface operations and drove the first overland expedition of the Red Planet into its 14th year.
As 2016 came to an end and 2017 rang in, Opportunity was working the first leg of the ascent up the rugged western rim of Endeavour Crater on her way to an ancient gully, the next scientific tour de force down the road, and the mission was closing in on its 13th anniversary of surface operations coming up in the New Year.