Mars rover Opportunity will explore the Endeavour crater. It will be the final mission for the rover after landing on Mars nearly 7 years ago. Opportunity finished a mission exploring Victoria crater back in 2008 and has been on the move ever since.
NASA researchers expect this to be the last mission for the robot that was only supposed to last for 3 months when it originally parachuted down to the surface of the Red Planet. It’s twin, Spirit, died out last year when it got stuck in sand and contact was lost. Both vehicles have made important discoveries about wet environments on ancient Mars that might have supported microbial life.
The very slow moving Oppurtunity should reach Endeavour’s rim with the next few days, it’s currently about a football field away from the ridge named “Spirit Point” which is named for the lost rover. “I’m totally pumped. We’ve been driving for so long,” said Ray Arvidson of Washington University in St. Louis who is part of the team.
The Endeavour crater is about 14 miles wide or 25 times the size of the Victoria crater. In early 2009, Opportunity caught its first peek of the uplifted rim on the horizon. At the time, scientists were unsure if the rover would make it all the way. The roughly seven-mile journey took longer than the estimated two years to fulfill. Opportunity, driving backward to prevent its right front wheel from wearing out, could not travel as the crow flies because of dangerous obstacles. So it took a circuitous route and ended up driving twice the distance.
Opportunity, which logged more than 20 miles since landing, will spend several months imaging the rim and interior, which has been partially filled in by rocks and sediments. There are no plans to drive across the crater for fear of getting stuck, Callas said. Instead, it will traverse south along the rim in search of clay minerals thought to form under wet conditions. “We will likely spend years at this location,” Callas said. “What a destination. It’s not just one spot. There’s kilometers of interesting geology to explore.”By: Kara Gilmour
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