January 21, 2014 – In a classic reverse case of “now you see it, now you don’t,” the ten-year old Mars rover, Opportunity, provided NASA scientists with a surprise. In two images taken 12 Martian days apart, Opportunity’s cameras recorded a change in its surroundings. The first picture shows Martian bedrock and gravel. But the second picture, identical in every way, has added a new rock to the image, smack dab in the centre.
The lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover is Steve Squyres of Cornell University. The explanation for this errant rock’s appearance – debris from a nearby meteorite strike that became dislodged and deposited within Opportunity’s field of view, or debris kicked up by one of Opportunity’s six wheels as it rolled across the Martian landscape.
In any event it certainly adds to the evidence already that Mars is far from a static environment. For those of you who are fascinated by the ten-year journey of Opportunity, the little rover that continues to demonstrate great resilience, check out “10 years on Mars.”