August 9, 2011

Mars Rover About To Embark On New Beginnings

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is poised to reach the rim of a large crater, beginning a new phase of research for the rover.

Opportunity drove out of Victoria crater in August 2008, and now only 2 miles stand in its way of driving out of Endeavour crater.

NASA selected "Spirit Point" as an informal name for the site on the rim where Opportunity will arrive at the Endeavour crater.

The choice commemorates Opportunity's rover twin, Spirit, which ended communication and finished its mission earlier this year.

"Spirit achieved far more than we ever could have hoped when we designed her," Steve Squyres of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., principal investigator for the rovers, said in a press release.

"This name will be a reminder that we need to keep pushing as hard as we can to make new discoveries with Opportunity. The exploration of Spirit Point is the next major goal for us to strive for."

Endeavour crater is 14 miles in diameter, which is 20 times wider than Victoria crater. 

Opportunity and Spirit completed their three-month prime missions on Mars in April 2004.  Both rovers spent extra years performing bonus missions. 


Image Caption: NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity used its panoramic camera (Pancam) to capture this view of a portion of Endeavour crater's rim after a drive during the rover's 2,676th Martian day, or sol, of working on Mars (Aug. 4, 2011).
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/ASU


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