Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Mars rover Opportunity heads uphill

Date:
October 23, 2013
Source:
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Summary:
NASA's Mars Exploration Rover has begun climbing "Solander Point," the northern tip of the tallest hill it has encountered in the mission's nearly 10 Earth years on Mars.

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity captured this stereo view after beginning to ascend the northwestern slope of "Solander Point" on the western rim of Endeavour Crater. The image appears three-dimensional when viewed through red-blue glasses with the red lens on left.
Credit: Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover has begun climbing "Solander Point," the northern tip of the tallest hill it has encountered in the mission's nearly 10 Earth years on Mars.

Guided by mineral mapping from orbit, the rover is exploring outcrops on the northwestern slopes of Solander Point, making its way up the hill much as a field geologist would do. The outcrops are exposed from several feet (about 2 meters) to about 20 feet (6 meters) above the surrounding plains, on slopes as steep as 15 to 20 degrees. The rover may later drive south and ascend farther up the hill, which peaks at about 130 feet (40 meters) above the plains.

"This is our first real Martian mountaineering with Opportunity," said the principal investigator for the rover, Steve Squyres of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. "We expect we will reach some of the oldest rocks we have seen with this rover -- a glimpse back into the ancient past of Mars."

The hill rises southward as a ridge from Solander Point, forming an elevated portion of the western rim of Endeavour Crater. The crater spans 14 miles (22 kilometers) in diameter. The ridge materials were uplifted by the great impact that excavated the crater billions of years ago, reversing the common geological pattern of older materials lying lower than younger ones.

Key targets on the ridge include clay-bearing rocks identified from observations by the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars, which is on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The observations were specially designed to yield mineral maps with enhanced spatial resolution.

This segment of the crater's rim stands much higher than "Cape York," a segment to the north that Opportunity investigated for 20 months beginning in mid-2011.

"At Cape York, we found fantastic things," Squyres said. "Gypsum veins, clay-rich terrain, the spherules we call newberries. We know there are even larger exposures of clay-rich materials where we're headed. They might look like what we found at Cape York or they might be completely different."

Opportunity reached Solander Point in August after months of driving from Cape York. Researchers then used the rover to investigate a transition zone around the base of the ridge. The area reveals contact between a sulfate-rich geological formation and an older formation. The sulfate-rich rocks record an ancient environment that was wet, but very acidic. The contact with older rocks may tell researchers about a time when environmental conditions changed.

Opportunity first explored the eastern side of Solander Point, then drove back north and around the point to explore the western side. "We took the time to find the best place to start the ascent," said Opportunity's project manager, John Callas of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. "Now we've begun that climb."

The rover began the climb on Oct. 8 and has advanced farther uphill with three subsequent drives.

"We're in the right place at the right time, on a north-facing slope," Callas said. In Mars' southern hemisphere, a north-facing slope tilts the rover's solar panels toward the sun during the Martian winter, providing an important boost in available power.

During the most recent of the five winters that Opportunity has worked on Mars, the rover spent several months without driving, safe on a small, north-facing patch of northern Cape York. The area where the rover is now climbing, however, offers a much larger north-facing area, with plenty of energy-safe ground for the rover to remain mobile. Opportunity is currently at a northward tilt of about 17 degrees.

In the coming Martian winter, daily sunshine will reach a minimum in February 2014. The rover team plans a "lily pad" strategy to make use of patches of ground with especially favorable slopes as places to recharge the rover's batteries between drives.

Opportunity landed on Mars on Jan. 25, 2004 (Universal Time and EST; Jan. 24, PST), three weeks after its twin, Spirit. Spirit was the first Martian mountaineer, summiting a 269-foot (82-meter) hill in 2005. Spirit ceased operations in 2010. NASA's newest Mars rover, Curiosity, landed in 2012 and is currently driving toward a 3-mile-high (5-kilometer-high) mountain.

Recent drives by Opportunity and Curiosity have taken the total distance driven by NASA's four Mars rovers (including Sojourner in 1997) past 50 kilometers. The total on Oct. 21 was 31.13 miles (50.10 kilometers), including 23.89 miles (38.45 kilometers) by Opportunity.

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 heads uphill." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 October 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131023111111.htm>.
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (2013, October 23). Mars rover Opportunity heads uphill. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131023111111.htm
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "Mars rover Opportunity heads uphill." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131023111111.htm (accessed April 20, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

A Hoax? Cosmetics Company Wants To Brighten The Moon

A Hoax? Cosmetics Company Wants To Brighten The Moon

Newsy (Apr. 19, 2014) FOREO, a Swedish cosmetics company, says it wants to brighten the moon to lower electricity costs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station

Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station

AP (Apr. 18, 2014) On it's second attempt this week, The Space X company launched Friday from Cape Canaveral to ferry supplies to the International Space Station. (April 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Unmanned Falcon 9 Rocket Blasts Off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida

Unmanned Falcon 9 Rocket Blasts Off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida

Reuters - US Online Video (Apr. 18, 2014) The rocket, built and operated by Space Exploration Technologies, carries a Dragon cargo ship loaded with supplies and equipment destined for the International Space Station. Rough Cut (no reporter narration). Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Earth's Near-Twin Found Orbiting Red Dwarf

Earth's Near-Twin Found Orbiting Red Dwarf

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) The newly-discovered planet is roughly the size of Earth and could have liquid water on its surface. 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