Ten years ago, an epic event shaped many of us here at Planetary Resources: humans landed a rover on Mars, and we helped put it there.
Opportunity greeted the Martian surface on January 25, 2004. Just three weeks prior, its counterpart Spirit also met the Red Planet and began its exploration. During the rover’s 120 million mile journey to Mars, the crew who designed, built and launched Opportunity had ample time to let their imagination run about the day it would reach its destination.
Myself, and Planetary Resources’ team members Chris Voorhees and Peter Illsley, were there. We played various roles in the development of the 400lbs. rover and were in Mission Control during the “6 minutes of terror” landing sequence, each one of us waiting for the rover to activate so that we could stop holding our breath.
The National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall recently opened a 10 year MER anniversary exhibit, and included in the display is the rover wheel, designed by PRI VP of Spacecraft Development, Chris Voorhees, and the Rover Electronics Module, designed by Peter Illsley, our Principal Mechanical and Thermal Engineer.
Since that electrifying landing, Opportunity has journeyed dozens of kilometers, conducted numerous experiments, and outlasted even the most optimistic estimates of its lifespan (originally 90 sols).
Opportunity still is an inspiration and continues to allow scientists, engineers and dreamers to imagine and experience Mars. We’re looking forward to doing the same here at Planetary Resources with our Arkyd Series of Spacecraft which will venture into deep space to prospect and mine asteroids with the goal of bringing the natural resources of space within humanity’s economic sphere of influence.
Check out this video to hear first-hand stories from me and other team members who each played a part in Opportunity’s story, and who now lead us here at Planetary Resources:
Where were you when Opportunity landed? Tell us in the comments below!
-Chris Lewicki, President and Chief Engineer