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Decade later, Mars rover plugs away

The late-afternoon shadow cast by the Mars rover Opportunity at Endeavour Crater. The six-wheel rover landed on Mars in January 2004 and is still going strong.

NASA, via AP

The late-afternoon shadow cast by the Mars rover Opportunity at Endeavour Crater. The six-wheel rover landed on Mars in January 2004 and is still going strong.

LOS ANGELES — Opportunity, NASA’s other Mars rover, has tooled around the red planet for so long, it’s easy to forget it’s still alive.

Some 5,000 miles away from the limelight surrounding Curiosity’s every move, Opportunity this week quietly embarks on its 10th year of exploration, a sweet milestone since it was only tasked to work for three months.

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True, it’s not as snazzy as Curiosity, the most high-tech interplanetary rover ever designed, which awed the world with its landing near the Martian equator five months ago.

Opportunity is showing its age: It has a cranky joint in its robotic arm and it drives mostly backward due to a balky front wheel.

For several months, it has been parked on a clay-rich hill along the western rim of Endeavour Crater. It plans to wrap up there in the next several months and then drive south.

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