The revival of the auto industry is perfectly fine, but the hottest car around is a decidedly limited-edition one: the Opportunity rover, now celebrating its tenth year working and roving on the Red Planet. Like any old car, Opportunity has its flaws: one of its six wheels is shot, not all of its instruments are working as they once did and its robotic arm has dust in its joints. But the golf-car-sized vehicle, which came with just a three-month warranty (admittedly a low-ball figure that NASA engineers suspected it would easily beat) has lasted far longer than even the most optimistic mission planners predicted—and fours years longer than its sister rover, Spirit, which arrived on Mars at around the same time and winked out in 2010. In that decade, Opportunity has put more than 23 mi. (37 km).on its odometer and is still on the move. Opportunity went to Mars to do science, and it’s delivered splendidly on that score—with data streaming back about the chemistry and geology of Mars both today and in its distant past, and tantalizing hints to its biological potential. But humans are visual creatures, and it’s the pictures from the rovers—a small collection of which follow—that will always thrill us most. Happy birthday, Opportunity—and keep rolling.
More Photography from Time
- Window on Infinity: From Saturn to Mars to Deep Space to Home
- These are 11 of the Oldest Things in the World
- Window on Infinity: Winter Pictures from Icy Space
- Breathaking Panoramas and Mosaics From Opportunity’s Decade on Mars
- Window on Infinity: A New Year’s Photo Album From Space
- Earthrise on Christmas Eve: The Picture That Changed the World