Opportunity Rover Snaps an Epic Selfie to Marks 5,000th Martian Day

NASA's Opportunity Mars rover selfie
NASA's Opportunity Mars rover took this self-portrait with its Microscopic Imager in February 2018 to celebrate the 5,000th Martian day of its mission. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA's Opportunity rover celebrated its 5,000th day on Mars by snapping a first-of-its-kind selfie.

Opportunity has taken photos of itself before, using the panoramic camera on its head-like mast. But the newly released image was captured by Opportunity's Microscopic Imager instrument, which the rover had never turned to take a picture of itself before, according to NASA officials.

"The Microscopic Imager is a fixed-focus camera mounted at the end of the rover's robotic arm," NASA officials wrote in a description of the image, which was released Monday (Feb. 26). "Because it was designed for close inspection of rocks, soils and other targets at a distance of around 2.7 inches (7 centimeters), the rover is out of focus." [The Top 10 Space Robot Selfies Ever]

The photo is a mosaic composed of multiple pictures snapped on sols 5,000 and 5,006 of Opportunity's mission. A sol is a Martian day, which is about 40 minutes longer than an Earth day. Sol 5,000 for the rover corresponded to Feb. 16 here on our planet.

The golf-cart-size Opportunity and its twin, Spirit, touched down on Mars in January 2004 and embarked on 90-sol missions to hunt for signs of past water activity on the Red Planet. Both rovers found a lot of such evidence — Spirit even rolled through an ancient hydrothermal site — and just kept on trucking. Spirit kept operating until 2010, and Opportunity remains active today, exploring the rim of a 14-mile-wide (22 kilometers) crater called Endeavour. 

To date, Opportunity has traveled 28.03 miles (45.12 km) on the Red Planet — more distance than any other vehicle has ever covered on the surface of another world.

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with Space.com and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.