Mars Rover Sees Huge Crater Better Than Ever

Mars Rover Sees Huge Crater Better Than Ever
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. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell University)

NASA's intrepid Opportunity rover currently rolling acrossthe surface of Mars has just caught its best-yet glimpse of its next stop ? thehuge Endeavour Crater.

The rover's latest photo of the Mars crater has revealed newdetails not discernable from previous images taken on the ground.

Several high points visible along the crater's rim can becorrelated with spots seen from orbit. The image is a so-called "super-resolution"picture assembled by combining information from multiplephotos to achieve a highly-detailed portrait.

But don't think Opportunity will be arriving at Endeavourany time soon. The rover, which is now in its seventhyear on Mars, still has many months of driving before it reaches the hugecrater, which is 13 miles (21 km) wide.

Opportunity landed on the red planet in January 2004 alongwith its sister rover, Spirit. The pair were originally planned to travel theMartian surface for only 90 days each, but have now set the record for the longestmission on Mars.

The Endeavour Crater was selected as a long-term destinationfor Opportunity in 2008 after the rover finished up a two-year study ofVictoria 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 aspectrometer on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have revealed clay mineralsexposed at the crater. Clay minerals, which form under wetconditions, have been found extensively on Mars from orbit, but have not yetbeen examined from the surface. Additional observations with that spectrometerare helping the rover team choose which part of Endeavour's rim to visit firstwith Opportunity.

Scientists on the Opportunity team have been informallynaming features seen on Endeavour after places visited by British Royal NavyCapt. James Cook in his 1769-1771 Pacific voyage on the H.M.S. Endeavoursailing ship. Spots visible in the new image include "Cape Tribulation,""Cape Byron" and "Cape Dromedary."

  • Gallery - Latest Mars Photos From Spirit and Opportunity
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