August 10, 2011

Opportunity Arrives At ‘Spirit Point’

NASA said on Wednesday that its Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has reached the planet's Endeavour Crater after a three year journey.

The rover relayed its arrival at a location named Spirit Point on the crater's rim.

NASA selected "Spirit Point" as an informal name for the site to commemorate Opportunity's rover twin, Spirit, which ended communication and finished its mission earlier this year.

Opportunity has driven roughly 13 miles since climbing out of the Victoria crater.

"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 in a press release.

"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."

Scientists expect to see much older rocks and terrains than those examined by Opportunity during its first seven years on Mars.  NASA said Endeavour has became a tantalizing destination after NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter detected clay minerals that may have formed during 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," Matthew Golombek, Mars Exploration Rover science team member, at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, said in a press release. "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."

NASA launched the twin rovers in the summer of 2003.  Opportunity and Spirit completed their three-month prime missions on Mars in April 2004.  Both rovers spent extra years performing bonus missions.


Image 1: West Rim of Endeavour Crater on Mars (False Color). Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/ASU

Image 2: 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 24 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


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