|Launch Date||July 6, 2003 | 03:18:15 UT|
|Launch Site||Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA|
|Status||Successful—Extended Mission in Progress|
|Alternate Names||MER-B, MER 1, Mars Exploration Rover 1, Mars Exploration Rover B, 27849, 2003-032A|
NASA's Mars Exploration Rovers—Opportunity and its twin Spirit—were designed to study the history of climate and water at sites on Mars where conditions may once have been favorable to life. Each rover is equipped with a suite of science instruments to read the geologic record at each site, to investigate what role water played there and to determine how suitable the conditions would have been for life.
Both rovers far exceeded their design specifications and returned science results that transformed our understanding of Mars.
Opportunity, the second rover to land on Mars has returned dramatic evidence that its area of Mars stayed wet for an extended period of time long ago, with conditions that could have been suitable for sustaining microbial life. Scientists believe that Opportunity's Meridiani Planum landing site "was once the shoreline of a salty sea on Mars." Opportunity also has analyzed exposed rock layers recording how environmental conditions changed over time. In JUly 2014, Opportunity set the off-Earth roving distance record after accruing 25 miles (40 kilometers) of driving. The previous record was held by the Soviet Union's Lunokhod 2 rover.
July 6, 2003 | 03:18:15 UT: Launch
Jan. 25, 2004: Mars Landing
Launch Vehicle: Delta II 7925
Spacecraft Mass: Total mass at launch was 1,062 kilograms; the rover weighs 174 kilograms
Miniature thermal emission spectrometer
Alpha particle X-ray spectrometer
Rock abrasion tool