Mars Rover Arrives at Dramatic Vista on Red Planet

NASA’s Mars Rover Opportunity has arrived at the rim of a crater approximately five times wider than a previous stadium-sized one it studied for half a year.

Initial images from the rover’s first overlook after a 21-month journey to “Victoria Crater” show rugged walls with layers of exposed rock and a floor blanketed with dunes. The far wall is approximately 800 meters (one-half mile) from the rover.

“This is a geologist’s dream come true,” said Dr. Steve Squyres of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., principal investigator for NASA’s twin rovers Opportunity and Spirit. “Those layers of rock, if we can get to them, will tell us new stories about the environmental conditions long ago. We especially want to learn whether the wet era that we found recorded in the rocks closer to the landing site extended farther back in time. The way to find that out is to go deeper, and Victoria may let us do that.”

Opportunity has been exploring Mars since January 2004, more than 10 times longer than its original prime mission of three months. It has driven more than 9.2 kilometers (5.7 miles). Most of that was to get from “Endurance” crater to Victoria, across a flat plain pocked with smaller craters and strewn with sand ripples. Frequent stops to examine intriguing rocks interrupted the journey, and one large sand ripple kept the rover trapped for more than five weeks.

“We’re so proud of Opportunity, the rover that ‘takes a lickin’ but keeps on tickin’,'” said Cindy Oda, a Mars rover mission manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. “It continues to overcome all challenges despite its aging parts and difficult terrain. We are looking forward to exciting new discoveries as Opportunity begins its new adventure exploring Victoria Crater.”

Spirit, halfway around Mars and farther south from the planet’s equator, has been staying at one northward-tilted position through the southern Mars winter in order to collect the maximum energy supply for its solar panels. Spirit is conducting studies that benefit from staying in one place, such as monitoring effects of wind on dust. It will begin driving again when the Martian spring increases the amount of solar power available.

Operations for both rovers will be minimized for much of October as Mars passes nearly behind the sun from Earth’s perspective, making radio communication more difficult than usual.

Opportunity’s view into the Victoria Crater is available at: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/mer/.

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Exploration Rover Project for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

From NASA

3 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for the clarification. I read Science Blog through a news aggregator so that may have contributed to my confusion. Also, some of the source stories are not (to me) clearly distinguished as a press release by that source. This NASA piece, for instance, seems like a straight news piece on their site until you reach the bottom.

    I prefer my press releases with “Press Release” at the top. But that’s not your error.

    Anyway, thanks for the explanation — I can now comfortably continue reading the blog :)

  2. First, thanks for taking the time to write (and read).

    If you look at the ‘About’ section on this site, you’ll see that Science Blog makes no bones about reprinting news releases from research organizations. That’s been our MO for four years, and dozens of outfits send us their content specifically for this purpose.

    Every news release includes a link back to the originating organization and in 99.9 % of cases states very clearly at the bottom of the release “From (fill in the blank),” though occasionally we’ll simply link within the body of the text to the organization.

    Science Blog also hosts the personal blogs of registered users and publishes orginal articles and interviews.

    Hope this helps clear up any confusion. Again, thanks for writing.

  3. You do know that you can’t just re-post copy from source sites without their permission? And if you have their permission you have to indicate that your post is an exact copy of the source and that it’s re-posted here by permission.

    The way you do things currently makes it appear that you are trying to pass off others’ writing as your own. I no longer know what to trust as original content from Science Blog and what has been “borrowed” from other sites. Does NASA know that you do this frequently with their content?

    I guess now I have to assume that everything on Science Blog is copied (in part or wholesale) from other sources and that nothing is original.

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