Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Eight years and 34 million miles on, Mars rover nears end of road

Mars Rover
It travelled at an average speed of 60cm an hour and it has arrived a year late. But the Mars rover Opportunity is finally approaching its destination, the rim of the vast Endeavour crater.

Nasa hailed the six-wheel Opportunity's approach to the 22.5km-wide crater last night as a "tremendous scientific success".

The ageing robotic field geologist has logged more than 32km since it was first parachuted on to the planet's surface in 2003, along with its twin rover Spirit, for a planned three-month mission after their 34 million-mile journey from Earth. Spirit emitted its last signal a year ago after becoming trapped in sand. Opportunity crawled out from a crater in 2008 and headed south to the Endeavour, a two-year journey in theory, which has taken longer because Opportunity had to drive backwards to prevent its front wheel from wearing out.

At the crater, Opportunity will travel south across the rim to perform a geological assessment of the location, examining the clay minerals formed under wet conditions at the oldest of the four craters it has visited.

The finishing point was nicknamed Spirit Point in honour of Opportunity's fallen twin. Scott Maxwell, leader of the Mars Rover driving team, tweeted: "The drive we uplink today will actually take us physically on to Cape York. So. *Freaking*. Excited."

Read More

No comments: