[meteorite-list] NASA's Mars Rover To Head Toward Bigger Crater

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Mon, 22 Sep 2008 13:47:30 -0700 (PDT)
Message-ID: <200809222047.NAA25668_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>

Sept. 22, 2008

Dwayne Brown
Headquarters, Washington
dwayne.c.brown at nasa.gov

Guy Webster
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
guy.webster at jpl.nasa.gov
RELEASE: 08-240


PASADENA, Calif. -- NASA's Mars Rover Opportunity is setting its
sights on a crater more than 20 times larger than its home for the
past two years.

To reach the crater the rover team calls Endeavour, Opportunity would
need to drive approximately 7 miles to the southeast, matching the
total distance it has traveled since landing on Mars in early 2004.
The rover climbed out of Victoria Crater earlier this month.

"We may not get there, but it is scientifically the right direction to
go anyway," said Steve Squyres of Cornell University, principal
investigator for the science instruments on Opportunity and its twin
rover, Spirit. "This crater is staggeringly large compared to
anything we've seen before."

Getting there would yield a look inside a bowl 13.7 miles across.
Scientists expect to see a much deeper stack of rock layers than
those examined by Opportunity in Victoria Crater.

"I would love to see that view from the rim," Squyres said. "But even
if we never get there, as we move southward we expect to be getting
to younger and younger layers of rock on the surface. Also, there are
large craters to the south that we think are sources of cobbles that
we want to examine out on the plain. Some of the cobbles are samples
of layers deeper than Opportunity will ever see, and we expect to
find more cobbles as we head toward the south."

Opportunity will have to pick up the pace to get there. The rover team
estimates Opportunity may be able to travel about 110 yards each day
it is driven toward the Endeavour crater. Even at that pace, the
journey could take two years.

"This is a bolder, more aggressive objective than we have had before,"
said John Callas, the project manager for both Mars rovers at NASA's
Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "It's tremendously
exciting. It's new science. It's the next great challenge for these
robotic explorers."

Opportunity, like Spirit, is well past its expected lifetime on Mars,
and might not keep working long enough to reach the crater. However,
two new resources not available during the 4-mile drive toward
Victoria Crater in 2005 and 2006 are expected to aid in this new

One is imaging from orbit of details smaller than the rover itself,
using the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera
on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which arrived at the Red
Planet in 2006.

"HiRISE allows us to identify drive paths and potential hazards on the
scale of the rover along the route," Callas said. "This is a great
example of how different parts of NASA's Mars Exploration Program
reinforce each other."

Other advantages come from a new version of flight software uplinked
to Opportunity and Spirit in 2006, boosting their ability to
autonomously choose routes and avoid hazards such as sand dunes.

During its first year on Mars, Opportunity found geological evidence
that the area where it landed had surface and underground water in
the distant past. The rover's explorations since have added
information about how that environment changed over time. Finding
rock layers above or below the layers already examined adds windows
into later or earlier periods of time.

NASA's JPL built and manage the rovers and the Mars Reconnaissance
Orbiter for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

For images and information about Spirit and Opportunity, visit:


Received on Mon 22 Sep 2008 04:47:30 PM PDT

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