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: Testing to diagnose power event in Mars rover

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Why we see familiar-looking objects in Mars topology

Mar 02, 2015

What is up with the fossils on Mars? Found – a dinosaur skull on Mars? Discovered – a rat, squirrel or gerbil on Mars? In background of images from Curiosity, vertebrae from some extinct Martian species? ...

Interesting facts about planet Mars

Feb 16, 2015

Mars is a constant point of discussion for space explorers around the world. We've sent dozens of spacecraft there to study it. Some want to land astronauts on it. The planet is just far away to make that ...

Mars rover nearing marathon achievement

Feb 12, 2015

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is nearing a location on Mars at which its driving distance will surpass the length of a marathon race.

NASA spacecraft completes 40,000 Mars orbits

Feb 11, 2015

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter passed a mission milestone of 40,000 orbits on Feb. 7, 2015, in its ninth year of returning information about the atmosphere, surface and subsurface of Mars, from equatorial ...

Recommended for you

Testing to diagnose power event in Mars rover

7 hours ago

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover is expected to remain stationary for several days of engineering analysis following an onboard fault-protection action on Feb. 27 that halted a process of transferring sample material ...

ESA experts assess risk from exploded satellite

8 hours ago

After studying the recent explosive break-up of a US satellite, ESA space debris experts have concluded this event does not increase the collision risk to nearby ESA missions in any meaningful way.

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.