Fri, Sep 29, 2006
21-Month Journey Marked By Several Stops On The Way
Send a rover over... just don't hold your breath. NASA reported
Thursday the Mars rover Opportunity has finally arrived at the rim
of Victoria Crater... after a 21-month journey.
Let's see.. that's 21 months to travel a little under six miles.
That's about 15,000 hours... divided by six... well, never mind,
it's slow! But slow and steady in this case paid off because
Victoria Crater may hold the keys to many questions about Mars...
especially about evidence of water discovered at Opportunity's
original landing site.
"This is a geologist's dream come true," said Dr. Steve Squyres
of Cornell University, principal investigator for NASA's twin
rovers Opportunity and Spirit. "Those layers of rock, if we can get
to them, will tell us new stories about the environmental
conditions long ago. We especially want to learn whether the wet
era that we found recorded in the rocks closer to the landing site
extended farther back in time. The way to find that out is to go
deeper, and Victoria may let us do that."
Opportunity has been exploring Mars since January 2004... that's
10 times longer than its planned mission length of three
"We're so proud of Opportunity, the rover that 'takes a lickin'
but keeps on tickin','" said Cindy Oda, a Mars rover mission
manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA. "It
continues to overcome all challenges despite its aging parts and
difficult terrain. We are looking forward to exciting new
discoveries as Opportunity begins its new adventure exploring
To be fair, we may have exaggerated a little about how slow
Opportunity is. The trek to Victoria Crater included lots of stops
along the way for the rover to inspect interesting rocks and
objects... and let's not forget the five weeks it spent stuck in a sand
drift last year.
That should bring its average speed up to... well, it's still
slow. But we doubt NASA minds.
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