September 1, 2011
Mars Rover Studying New Areas Of Martian Surface
NASA said on Thursday that its Opportunity rover has started to study Martian surface composition from its new location.
Opportunity arrived earlier in August at the rim of a 14-mile-wide crater named Endeavour. The first rock examined by the rover was flat-topped and about the size of a footstool, according to NASA.
"This is different from any rock ever seen on Mars," Steve Squyres, principal investigator for Opportunity at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., said in a press release. "It has a composition similar to some volcanic rocks, but there's much more zinc and bromine than we've typically seen. We are getting confirmation that reaching Endeavour really has given us the equivalent of a second landing site for Opportunity."
Researchers have used an instrument on Opportunity's robotic arm in the past two weeks to identify elements at several spots on the rock, which is informally named as Tisdale 2.
NASA said that scientists have also examined the rock using the rover's microscopic imager and multiple filters on its panoramic camera.
The rock was excavated by an impact that dug a crater the size of a tennis court into the crater's rim.
Researchers believe the rock exposures on Endeavour's rim date from early in Martian history and include clay minerals that form in less-acidic wet conditions, which could possibly be more favorable for life.
The science team chose Endeavour as Opportunity's long-term destination after the rover climbed out of Victoria crater three years ago.
"This is like having a brand new landing site for our veteran rover," Dave Lavery, program executive for NASA's Mars Exploration Rovers at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said in a press release. "It is a remarkable bonus that comes from being able to rove on Mars with well-built hardware that lasts."
The mission spent two years studying Victoria and the rover has driven about 20.8 miles since landing on Mars.
"We have a very senior rover in good health for having already worked 30 times longer than planned," John Callas, project manager for Opportunity at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said in a statement. "However, at any time, we could lose a critical component on an essential rover system, and the mission would be over. Or, we might still be using this rover's capabilities beneficially for years. There are miles of exciting geology to explore at Endeavour crater."
Image 1: NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity used its front hazard-avoidance camera to take this picture showing the rover's arm extended toward a light-toned rock, "Tisdale 2," during the 2,695th Martian day, or sol, of the rover's work on Mars (Aug. 23, 2011). Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Image 2: NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity used its navigation camera to take this picture showing a light-toned rock, "Tisdale 2," during the 2,690th Martian day, or sol, of the rover's work on Mars (Aug. 18, 2011). Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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