After graduting from the University of Michigan, one of the first projects that I worked on was Mars Exploration Rover. I led a team in developing the Failure Modes Effects and Criticality Analysis (FMECA) during conceptual and preliminary design of the rovers, and spent over a year commuting between El Segundo and Pasadena to work directly with the JPL team. It has been so exciting to see how succesful this mission has been for the last ten-plus years, and it is very meaningful to me to have worked on a system that now holds the off-earth driving distance record.
As seen in the chart below, the previous record holders were all early-1970s pre-Gen-XY (I will write about this term more in the future). This data is representative of the disappointing and very real thirty-to-forty year significant decline in exploration that humanity elected to undertake following the Apollo moon landings.
Both Spirit and Opportunity, The Little Rovers That Could, far exceeded their ninety day design life to capture this record. Congratulations Opportunity and MER team! Now, let's figure out how to overtake this record as quickly as possible.