Opportunity scans a rock with its arm-mounted instruments. NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA's Opportunity rover is gearing up to start its tenth year of operation -- having lasted far, far longer than the mere three months its mission was supposed to last.
"What's most important is not how long it has lasted or even how far it has driven, but how much exploration and scientific discovery Opportunity has accomplished," John Callas, manager of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Project, said in a statement.
The rover touched down on the Red Planet nine years ago on January 24, 2004 PST, or January 25 Universal Time.
It was supposed to keep working for only about three months, and make it 600 metres across the planet's dusty surface.
Instead, it lasted almost a decade, 36 times longer than planned, and has driven more than 35 km.
One of its major discoveries was evidence that the Martian soil at its location was once soaked with water, that may have flowed across the surface.
Opportunity and its twin, Spirit -- which touched down three weeks earlier, but stopped transmitting in 2010 -- gave scientists the most complete view of the planet until Curiosity landed last year.
With files from NASA