Opportunity passes small crater and big milestone
The Mars rover has now traveled 50 times the distance originally planned for the mission.
June 3, 2011
A drive of 482 feet (146.8 meters) on June 1, 2011, took NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity past 18.64 miles (30 kilometers) in total odometry during 88 months of driving on Mars. That's 50 times the distance originally planned for the mission and more than 12 times the distance racehorses will run next week at the Belmont Stakes.
NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity used its navigation camera to take the exposures combined into this view of a 30 foot (9 meters) crater, informally named "Skylab," along the rover's route. The component images were taken during the 2,594th martian day, or sol, of the rover's work on Mars (May 12, 2011). The blocks of material ejected from the crater-digging impact sit on top of the sand ripples near the crater. This suggests, from the estimated age of the area's sand ripples, that the crater was formed within the past 100,000 years. The dark sand inside the crater attests to the mobility of fine sand in the recent era in this Meridiani Planum region of Mars.
Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech
Opportunity has passed many landmarks on its crater-hopping tour. One of the youngest of them is "Skylab" crater, which the rover passed last month. Rocks scattered by the impact of a meteorite surround the resulting crater in a view recorded by Opportunity on May 12.
This crater, informally named after America's first space station, is only about 30 feet (9m) in diameter. Opportunity passed it as the rover made progress toward its long-term destination, Endeavour crater, which is about 14 miles (22 km) in diameter.
The positions of the scattered rocks relative to sand ripples suggest that Skylab is young for a martian crater. Researchers estimate it was excavated by an impact within the past 100,000 years.
Opportunity and its twin, Spirit, completed their three-month prime missions on Mars in April 2004. Both rovers continued for years of bonus, extended missions. Both have made important discoveries about wet environments on ancient Mars that may have been favorable for supporting microbial life. Spirit has not communicated with Earth since March 2010.