Mars Rover Opportunity Ascends to Level Ground

September 1, 2008
NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity climbed out of "Victoria Crater" following the tracks it had made when it descended into the 800-meter-diameter (half-mile-diameter) bowl nearly a year earlier. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has climbed out of the large crater that it had been examining from the inside since last September.

"The rover is back on flat ground," an engineer who drives it, Paolo Bellutta of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, announced to the mission's international team of scientists and engineers.

Opportunity used its own entry tracks from nearly a year ago as the path for a drive of 6.8 meters (22 feet) bringing the rover out over the top of the inner slope and through a sand ripple at the lip of Victoria Crater. The exit drive, conducted late Thursday, completed a series of drives covering 50 meters (164 feet) since the rover team decided about a month ago that it had completed its scientific investigations inside the crater.

"We're headed to the next adventure out on the plains of Meridiani," said JPL's John Callas, project manager for Opportunity and its twin Mars rover, Spirit. "We safely got into the crater, we completed our exploration there, and we safely got out. We were concerned that any wheel failure on our aging rover could have left us trapped inside the crater."

The Opportunity mission has focused on Victoria Crater for more than half of the 55 months since the rover landed in the Meridiani Planum region of equatorial Mars. The crater spans about 800 meters (half a mile) in diameter and reveals rock layers that hold clues to environmental conditions of the area through an extended period when the rocks were formed and altered.

The team selected Victoria as the next major destination after Opportunity exited smaller Endurance Crater in late 2004. The ensuing 22-month traverse to Victoria included stopping for studies along the route and escaping from a sand trap. The rover first reached the rim of Victoria in September 2007. For nearly a year, it then explored partway around the rim, checking for the best entry route and examining from above the rock layers exposed in a series of promontories that punctuate the crater perimeter.

Now that Opportunity has finished exploring Victoria Crater and returned to the surrounding plain, the rover team plans to use tools on the robotic arm in coming months to examine an assortment of cobbles -- rocks about fist-size and larger -- that may have been thrown from impacts that dug craters too distant for Opportunity to reach.

Provided by NASA

Explore further: Image: July 7, 2003, NASA's Opportunity rover launches to Mars

Related Stories

Earth and Mars could share a life history

July 7, 2015

While life is everywhere on Earth, there is much debate about how it began. Some believe it originated naturally from the chemistry found on our planet as it evolved. Others hypothesize that lifeā€”or at least the building ...

Opportunity's 7th Mars winter to include new study area

July 7, 2015

Operators of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity plan to drive the rover into a valley this month where Opportunity will be active through the long-lived rover's seventh Martian winter, examining outcrops that contain ...

Recommended for you

Interstellar seeds could create oases of life

August 27, 2015

We only have one example of a planet with life: Earth. But within the next generation, it should become possible to detect signs of life on planets orbiting distant stars. If we find alien life, new questions will arise. ...

Dawn spacecraft sends sharper scenes from Ceres

August 25, 2015

The closest-yet views of Ceres, delivered by NASA's Dawn spacecraft, show the small world's features in unprecedented detail, including Ceres' tall, conical mountain; crater formation features and narrow, braided fractures.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.