Mars Rover Opportunity Ascends to Level Ground

Sep 01, 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: How bad can solar storms get?

Related Stories

The first Martian marathon

May 18, 2015

On Earth, the fastest runners can finish a marathon in hours. On Mars it takes about 11 years.

NASA's Curiosity eyes prominent mineral veins on Mars

Apr 02, 2015

Two-tone mineral veins at a site NASA's Curiosity rover has reached by climbing a layered Martian mountain offer clues about multiple episodes of fluid movement. These episodes occurred later than the wet ...

Recommended for you

How bad can solar storms get?

May 22, 2015

Our sun regularly pelts the Earth with all kinds of radiation and charged particles. How bad can these solar storms get?

Mars rover's ChemCam instrument gets sharper vision

May 22, 2015

NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover's "ChemCam" instrument just got a major capability fix, as Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists uploaded a software repair for the auto-focus system on the instrument.

GOES-R satellite begins environmental testing

May 21, 2015

The GOES-R satellite, slated to launch in 2016, is ready for environmental testing. Environmental testing simulates the harsh conditions of launch and the space environment once the satellite is in orbit. ...

User comments : 0

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.