Rover arrives at new site on martian surface

August 10, 2011
A portion of the west rim of Endeavour crater sweeps southward in this color view from NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity. This crater -- with a diameter of about 14 miles (22 kilometers) -- is more than 25 times wider than any that Opportunity has previously approached during the rover's 90 months on Mars. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/ASU

( -- After a journey of almost three years, NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has reached the Red Planet's Endeavour crater to study rocks never seen before.

On Aug. 9, the golf cart-sized rover relayed its arrival at a location named Spirit Point on the crater's rim. Opportunity drove approximately 13 miles (21 kilometers) since climbing out of the .

"NASA is continuing to write remarkable chapters in our nation's story of exploration with discoveries on Mars and trips to an array of challenging new destinations," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. "Opportunity's findings and data from the upcoming Mars Science Laboratory will play a key role in making possible future human missions to Mars and other places where humans have not yet been."

Endeavour crater, which is more than 25 times wider than Victoria crater, is 14 miles (22 kilometers) in diameter. At Endeavour, scientists expect to see much older rocks and terrains than those examined by Opportunity during its first seven years on Mars. Endeavour became a tantalizing destination after NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter detected clay minerals that may have formed in an early warmer and wetter period.

"We're soon going to get the opportunity to sample a rock type the rovers haven't seen yet," said Matthew Golombek, science team member, at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. " form in so we may learn about a potentially habitable environment that appears to have been very different from those responsible for the rocks comprising the plains."

West Rim of Endeavour Crater on Mars (False Color). Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/ASU

The name Spirit Point informally commemorates Opportunity's twin rover, which stopped communicating in March 2010. Spirit's mission officially concluded in May.

"Our arrival at this destination is a reminder that these rovers have continued far beyond the original three-month mission," said John Callas, Rover project manager at JPL.

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, which launched Aug. 12, 2005, is searching for evidence that water persisted on the Martian surface for a long period of time. Other Mars missions have shown water flowed across the surface in the planet's history, but scientists have not determined if water remained long enough to provide a habitat for life.

NASA launched the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity in the summer of 2003. Both completed their three-month prime missions in April 2004 and continued years of extended operations. They made important discoveries about wet environments on ancient that may have been favorable for supporting microbial life.

Explore further: Opportunity heads toward 'Spirit Point'

Related Stories

Opportunity heads toward 'Spirit Point'

June 9, 2011

( -- When NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity reaches the rim of a large crater it is approaching, its arrival will come with an inspiring reminder.

Opportunity rover halfway point reached

September 9, 2010

( -- When NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity left Victoria Crater two years ago this month, the rover science team chose Endeavour Crater as the rover's next long-term destination. With a drive of 111 meters ...

Opportunity passes small crater and big milestone

June 6, 2011

( -- A drive of 482 feet (146.8 meters) on June 1, 2011, took NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity past 30 kilometers (18.64 miles) in total odometry during 88 months of driving on Mars. That's 50 times the ...

Opportunity studying a football-field size crater

December 23, 2010

( -- On Dec. 16, 2010, NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity reached a crater about the size of a football field-some 90 meters (295 feet) in diameter. The rover team plans to use cameras and spectrometers ...

Recommended for you

STEREO—10 years of revolutionary solar views

October 26, 2016

Launched 10 years ago, on Oct. 25, 2006, the twin spacecraft of NASA's STEREO mission – short for Solar and Terrestrial Relations Observatory – have given us unprecedented views of the sun, including the first-ever simultaneous ...

Image: Changing colors in Saturn's pole

October 26, 2016

These two natural color images from NASA's Cassini spacecraft show the changing appearance of Saturn's north polar region between 2012 and 2016.


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.