Since the summer of 2008, when NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity finished two years of studying Victoria Crater, the rover's long-term destination has been the much larger Endeavour Crater to the southeast.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell University
NASA's intrepid Opportunity rover currently rolling across the surface of Mars has just caught its best-yet glimpse of its next stop ? the huge Endeavour Crater.
The rover's latest photo of the Mars crater has revealed new details not discernable from previous images taken on the ground.
Several high points visible along the crater's rim can be correlated with spots seen from orbit. The image is a so-called "super-resolution" picture assembled by combining information from multiple photos to achieve a highly-detailed portrait.
But don't think Opportunity will be arriving at Endeavour any time soon. The rover, which is now in its seventh year on Mars, still has many months of driving before it reaches the huge crater, which is 13 miles (21 km) wide.
Opportunity landed on the red planet in January 2004 along with its sister rover, Spirit. The pair were originally planned to travel the Martian surface for only 90 days each, but have now set the record for the longest mission on Mars.
The Endeavour Crater was selected as a long-term destination for Opportunity in 2008 after the rover finished up a two-year study of Victoria Crater. Endeavour Crater is about 25 times wider than Victoria.
Opportunity has now covered more than a third of the 12-mile (19-km) route between the two craters.
Recent observations of Endeavour Crater taken by a spectrometer on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have revealed clay minerals exposed at the crater. Clay minerals, which form under wet conditions, have been found extensively on Mars from orbit, but have not yet been examined from the surface. Additional observations with that spectrometer are helping the rover team choose which part of Endeavour's rim to visit first with Opportunity.
Scientists on the Opportunity team have been informally naming features seen on Endeavour after places visited by British Royal Navy Capt. James Cook in his 1769-1771 Pacific voyage on the H.M.S. Endeavour sailing ship. Spots visible in the new image include "Cape Tribulation," "Cape Byron" and "Cape Dromedary."
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