Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Mars rover Opportunity working at edge of 'Solander'

Date:
August 21, 2013
Source:
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Summary:
NASA's Mars rover Opportunity is studying the area of contact between a rock layer formed in acidic wet conditions long ago and an even older one that may be from a more neutral wet environment.

This view from NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity shows an area where a pale-toned geological unit called the "Burns Foundation," in the foreground, abuts a different geological unit. The darker unit, believed to be older, marks the edge of "Solander Point," a raised segment of the western rim of Endeavour Crater.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA's Mars rover Opportunity is studying the area of contact between a rock layer formed in acidic wet conditions long ago and an even older one that may be from a more neutral wet environment.

This geological contact line recording a change in environmental conditions billions of years ago lies at the foot of a north-facing slope, "Solander Point," that the rover's operators chose months ago as Opportunity's work area for the coming Martian southern hemisphere winter.

Opportunity has survived five Martian winters since it landed on Mars in January 2004. A northern slope would tilt the rover's solar panels toward the winter sun, providing an important boost in available power.

Three months ago, the mission began a trek of about 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) from an area where Opportunity worked for nearly two years, on "Cape York," to reach Solander Point for the winter.

"We made it," said Opportunity's project scientist, Matt Golombek of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "The drives went well, and Opportunity is right next to Solander Point. We know we could be on that north-facing slope with a one-day drive, but we don't need to go there yet. We have time to investigate the contact between the two geological units around the base of Solander Point. Geologists love contacts."

Both Cape York and Solander Point are raised segments of the western rim of Endeavour Crater, which is about 14 miles (22 kilometers) in diameter. Between these two raised segments, the ground surface is part of a geological unit called the Burns Formation, which also includes virtually all the rocks Opportunity studied from its landing site in Eagle Crater until its arrival at Cape York two years ago. The Burns Formation includes sulfate-bearing minerals that are evidence of an ancient environment containing sulfuric acid.

The geological contact that Opportunity is now investigating is where Burns Formation rocks border older rocks uplifted by the impact that formed Endeavour Crater. From observations by Mars orbiters and from Opportunity's work on Cape York, researchers suspect these older rocks may contain minerals that formed under wet conditions that were not as acidic.

The rover is also observing some loose rocks that may have rolled off Solander Point, providing a preview of what Opportunity may find after it climbs onto that rim segment.

Based on an analysis of the amount of dust accumulated on the rover's solar panels, the team plans to get Opportunity onto the north-facing slope before mid-December. Daily sunshine for the rover will reach a winter minimum in February 2014. The team expects to keep the rover mobile through the winter. Solander Point offers rock outcrops for the rover to continue studying through the winter months.

The twin rovers of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Project, Opportunity and Spirit, both completed three-month prime missions in April 2004 and began years of bonus, extended missions. Both found evidence of wet environments on ancient Mars. Spirit ceased operations during its fourth Martian winter, in 2010. Opportunity shows symptoms of aging, such as loss of motion in some joints, but continues to accomplish groundbreaking exploration and science.

JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Exploration Rover Project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate. For more about Spirit and Opportunity, visit http://www.nasa.gov/rovers and http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov . You can follow the project on Twitter and on Facebook at: http://twitter.com/MarsRovers and http://www.facebook.com/mars.rovers .


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Mars rover Opportunity working at edge of 'Solander'." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 August 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130821151030.htm>.
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (2013, August 21). Mars rover Opportunity working at edge of 'Solander'. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130821151030.htm
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Mars rover Opportunity working at edge of 'Solander'." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130821151030.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Space & Time News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: ISS Cargo Ship Launches in Kazakhstan

Raw: ISS Cargo Ship Launches in Kazakhstan

AP (July 23, 2014) The Progress 56 cargo ship launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Wednesday. NASA says it will deliver cargo and crew supplies to the International Space Station. (July 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks from Space Station

Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks from Space Station

AP (July 22, 2014) A Russian Soyuz cargo-carrying spacecraft undocked from the International Space Station on Monday. The craft is due to undergo about ten days of engineering tests before it burns up in the Earth's atmosphere. (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong

NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong

AP (July 21, 2014) NASA honored one of its most famous astronauts Monday by renaming a historic building at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It now bears the name of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon. (July 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Neil Armstrong's Post-Apollo 11 Life

Newsy (July 19, 2014) Neil Armstrong gained international fame after becoming the first man to walk on the moon in 1969. But what was his life like after the historic trip? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile: iPhone Android Web
          Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins