Mission Has Lasted Over 14 Times Longer Than Planned
NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has reached its
science team's first destination for the rover inside Victoria
Crater, information received from Mars late Tuesday confirms.
The space agency tells ANN Opportunity has descended the inner
slope of the 800-meter-wide crater (half a mile wide) to a band of
relatively bright bedrock exposed partway down. The rover is in
position to touch a selected slab of rock with tools at the end of
its robotic arm, after safety checks being commanded because the
rover is at a 25-degree tilt. Researchers intend to begin examining
the rock with those tools later this week.
"This will be the first of several stops within this band of
rock," said Steve Squyres of Cornell University, Ithaca, NY,
principal investigator for the science payloads on Opportunity and
its twin rover, Spirit. "By sampling it at several different levels
in the crater, we're hoping to figure out the processes that led to
its formation and its very distinctive appearance."
Opportunity drove 2.25 meters (7.38 feet) on September 25 to get
the selected flat rock within reach. That was the 1,305th Martian
day of the rover's mission... which was originally planned for 90
After entering the crater on September 13 for a multi-week
investigation of rock exposed inside, the rover advanced toward the
bright band with drives of 7.45 meters (24 feet) on September 18,
and 2.47 meters (8 feet) on September 22.
"We have completed several successful drives with Opportunity
inside Victoria Crater," said John Callas, Mars rover project
manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA. "The
rover is experiencing slopes as high as 25 degrees at some places,
but wheel slippage has only been around 10 percent."
Spirit, meanwhile, is exploring the top surface of a plateau
called "Home Plate," where rocks hold evidence about an explosive
combination of water and volcanism. JPL, a division of the
California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, manages the Mars
Exploration Rover project for the NASA Science Mission Directorate,