Mars Exploration Rovers: Spirit and Opportunity

NASA’s Spirit and Opportunity rovers were identical twin robots that helped rewrite our understanding of the early history of Mars.

Occurred 5 years ago

Mission Type

Rover pair


Look for signs of past water on Mars




(Spirit) Jan. 3, 2004 and (Opportunity) Jan. 24, 2004

NASA’s twin rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, landed on Mars on Jan. 3 and Jan. 24, 2004 PST (Jan. 4 and Jan. 25 UTC). The rovers were planned as 90-day missions to search for geological clues regarding environmental conditions on early Mars, and assess whether those environments were conducive to life. Spirit lasted 20 times longer than its original design, concluding its mission on March 22, 2010. Opportunity worked for nearly 15 years on Mars and broke the driving record for putting the most miles on its odometer, ending its mission on Feb. 13, 2019.

This inforgraphic shows a Mars rover and highlights from their tenure on Mars - including 14 years lifespan, more than 300,000 raw images and as much as 28 miles traveled.
This infographic highlights NASA’s twin robot geologists, the Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) Spirit and Opportunity. The rovers landed on the Red Planet in 2004, in search of answers about the history of water on Mars. Spirit concluded its mission in 2010. Opportunity last communicated with Earth on June 10, 2018, as a planet-wide dust storm blanketed the solar-powered rover's location on Mars.

Meet Spirit and Opportunity

A 3D model of the twin Mars Exploration Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity.
NASA Visualization Technology Applications and Development (VTAD)

Mars Exploration Rovers In Depth

  • Rover Basics

    Each robotic explorer sent to the Red Planet has its own unique capabilities driven by science. Many attributes of a rover take on human-like features, such as “heads,” and “bodies.” 


  • Objectives

    New knowledge from the twin rovers uniquely contributed to meeting the four overarching goals of the Mars Exploration Program, while complementing data gathered through other Mars missions.


  • Science

    By studying the rock record, Spirit and Opportunity confirmed that water was long standing on the surface of Mars in ancient times.


  • Raw Images

    View raw images sent back by Spirit and Opportunity from their explorations on Mars.


  • Resources

    Visit the one-stop-shop for all Spirit and Opportunity multimedia.


Landing Sites

The rovers were targeted to land at sites on opposite sides of Mars that looked as though they were affected by liquid water in the past. Spirit landed at Gusev Crater, a possible former lake in a giant impact crater. Opportunity landed at Meridiani Planum, a place where mineral deposits suggested that Mars had a wet history.

Spirit's landing platform is surrounded by crumpled airbags in this photo of the landing site.
This image mosaic taken by the panoramic camera onboard the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit shows the rover's landing site, the Columbia Memorial Station, at Gusev Crater, Mars. This spectacular view may encapsulate Spirit's entire journey, from lander to its possible final destination toward the east hills. On its way, the rover will travel 250 meters (820 feet) northeast to a large crater approximately 200 meters (660 feet) across, the ridge of which can be seen to the left of this image. To the right are the east hills, about 3 kilometers (2 miles) away from the lander. The picture was taken on the 16th martian day, or sol, of the mission (Jan. 18/19, 2004). A portion of Spirit's solar panels appear in the foreground. Data from the panoramic camera's green, blue and infrared filters were combined to create this approximate true color image.
A landscape on Mars shows the horizon cutting across the middle of the photo, and a vast, empty desert of orange, brown, and rust stretching into the distance. The cloudless, hazy sky above is a pale tan color. In the foreground is a wide depression in the terrain, with a deflated, cream-colored bag lying in the middle, surrounded by wheel tracks, with one set running out of the crater toward the viewer and extending off the bottom of the image frame.
This image shows the middle section of an approximate true-color panorama, dubbed "Lion King," showing "Eagle Crater" and the surrounding plains of Meridiani Planum. It was obtained by the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity's panoramic camera on sols 58 and 60 using infrared (750-nanometer), green (530-nanometer) and blue (430-nanometer) filters. The full panorama comprises 558 images and more than 75 megabytes of data, the largest panorama captured by either of the Mars Exploration Rovers in 2004. It depicts a story of exploration including the Opportunity rover's lander, a thorough examination of the outcrop behind, a study of the soils at the near-side of the lander, a successful exit from Eagle Crater, and finally the rover's next desination, the large crater dubbed "Endurance." Original image and full panorama:

Going the Distance

By the end of its mission, Spirit journeyed 4.8 miles (7.7 kilometers) on Mars. Opportunity holds the off-Earth roving distance record after accruing 28.06 miles (45.16 kilometers) of driving on Mars.

This illustration shows that Opportunity has driven farther than any other historic rovers.
February 13, 2019: This chart illustrates comparisons among the distances driven by various wheeled vehicles on the surface of Earth's Moon and Mars. Opportunity holds the off-Earth roving distance record after accruing 28.06 miles (45.16 kilometers) of driving on Mars.
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