Opportunity

Tyre tracks on Mars from the Opportunity Rover.

Last week, NASA announced that “One of the most successful and enduring feats of interplanetary exploration, NASA’s Opportunity rover mission is at an end after almost 15 years exploring the surface of Mars and helping lay the groundwork for NASA’s return to the Red Planet”.

Opportunity landed on Mars on 24 January 2004. It was designed to last 90 Martian days and travel 1,000 metres. It exceeded its life expectancy by 60 times and traveled 45 kilometres. Its resting place on Mars is, by delightful serendipity, Perseverance Valley.

Opportunity’s history is a great metaphor many endeavours. Last week on hearing about the end of NASA’s contact with the rover, I thought about all those who have charted the world of performance in sport. The image of Opportunity’s tracks on Mars provide a great reminder of the tracks each of us follow in our own journeys of discovery.

Our tracks in analysing performance come from some very basic technologies and, in the case of some of the foundational ideas about performance, remain as relevant today as they were when they were first recorded.

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