After almost three years of travel across the cold, rusty plains of Mars the last remaining functioning rover on Mars has finally reached her goal: the rim of the giant Endeavour Crater! Congratulations Opportunity and the MER team!
“Our arrival at this destination is a reminder that these rovers have continued far beyond the original three-month mission.”
– John Callas, Mars Exploration Rover project manager
Opportunity left her previous exploration target, the much smaller Victoria Crater, in August 2008. She has since been traversing the Meridiani Plains toward Endeavour, stopping occasionally to study interesting features like shallow craters, rock outcroppings and the odd meteorite before continuing on. She’s traveled 13 miles since August ’08 to get this view from Spirit Point, an area named after her sister rover that has fallen silent.
Long visible only as gradually larger and larger hills on the horizon, Endeavour Crater is now spread out before Opportunity and is all hers to explore!
“We’re soon going to get the opportunity to sample a rock type the rovers haven’t seen yet,” said Matthew Golombek, Mars Exploration Rover science team member, at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “Clay minerals form in wet conditions 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.”
Endeavour is 14 miles (22 km) wide – 25 times wider than the largest crater Opportunity had previously explored.
The lighter-toned rocks closer to the rover in this view are similar to the rocks Opportunity has driven over for most of the mission. However, the darker-toned and rougher rocks just beyond that might be a different type for Opportunity to investigate.
It will be interesting to see if the MER team takes some time to enjoy the view… or has Opportunity dive right in!
“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. 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.”
– NASA Administrator Charles Bolden
Read more on the official news release here, and be sure to check out The Road to Endeavour for more images and in-depth info on Opportunity’s progress.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/ASU