The twin rovers -- Opportunity and Spirit -- made some remarkable discoveries through the course of their mission.
In the year 2003, two space rovers were sent to the Red Planet as a part of an unmanned Mars Mission. Earlier this year, the United States space agency -- National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) – concluded its 15-year Mars mission with the Opportunity rover after it went incommunicado for eight months.
The opportunity has been the space agency’s longest-running Mars rover. It even outlived its twin – Spirit rover -- which stopped working in 2010.
The twin rovers made some remarkable discoveries through the course of their mission. Here are some of the strange objects they spotted on the Red Planet.
Within a few months of the Opportunity rover landing on Mars, its lenses captured a rather deceptive, odd-looking patch of rocks close to where it landed. Unsure of what the objects were at the beginning, the scientists dubbed the spherical rocks “blueberries”.
While the scientists could not figure out exactly what could have led to the odd shapes, they assumed it to be one of the earliest evidence of Mars having a watery past.
First extra-terrestrial meteorite
In 2005, the Opportunity rover spotted a meteorite with dimensions like that of a basketball, making it the first ever meteorite discovered on a planet apart from Earth.
The rover examined the space rock and concluded that it comprises mostly of iron and nickel. NASA decided to name it the ‘Heat Shield Rock’ since it was spotted near the rover’s heat shield that it had discarded after landing on Mars in 2003.
Thought the Opportunity rover could never prove the existence of life on Mars, it did once send back a photo that set many hearts racing. It found a mysterious object that resembled a long-eared bunny rabbit. The image was released in 2004, two months after the rover had landed on the Red Planet, to celebrate the rover's “mission success” panorama shot.
It even seemed as though the ears moved a bit as the weak Martian wind blew. However, NASA engineers ruled out all chances of it being a living creature and said it possibly is a soft material like cotton that could have just come from the vehicle.
The next strange discovery had to do with food, and this time it was doughnuts. Mysterious objects that look similar to powdery, jelly-filled doughnuts, just appeared before the Opportunity rover's panoramic camera in 2014.
In the previous images of the spot, no such objects could be seen. The scientists were perplexed; it took them months analysing to come to the conclusion that these were just basic rocks that the rover’s wheels might have displaced while moving around.
Human on Mars
In 2007, the Spirit rover sent back a photo of what looked like a human seated atop a boulder. No surprise, the photo led to immense buzz, which all died down when NASA once again ruled it out as evidence of life on Mars. This too turned out to be a rather deceptive rock.
‘Phallic’ rover tracks
After Mars touch down in 2004, the Spirit rover left phallic-shaped track marks on the Martian surface while taking a turn. Ten years later, a Reddit user found the photo and it immediately went viral, becoming a subject of multiple memes, until someone burst the bubble.