Opportunity rover captures spectacular view ahead to her upcoming mountain climbing goal, the raised rim of “Solander Point” at right, located along the western edge of Endeavour Crater. It may harbor clay minerals indicative of a habitable zone. This pancam photo mosaic was taken on Sol 3335, June 11, 2013. Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell/ASU/Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer (kenkremer.com)
See full panoramic scene – below
Your last chance to “Send Your Name to Mars aboard NASA’s MAVEN orbiter” – below[/caption]
NASA’s nearly decade old Opportunity Mars rover is sailing swiftly on a southerly course towards her first true mountain climbing destination – named “Solander Point” – in search of further evidence of habitable environments with the chemical ingredients necessary to sustain Martian life forms.
At Solander Point, researchers have already spotted deep stacks of ancient rocks transformed by flowing liquid water eons ago. It is located along the western rim of huge Endeavour Crater.
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“Right now the rover team is discussing the best way to approach and drive up Solander,” Ray Arvidson told Universe Today. Arvidson is the mission’s deputy principal scientific investigator from Washington University in St. Louis, Mo.
Solander Point may harbor clay minerals in the rock stacks indicative of a past Martian habitable zone.
“One idea is to drive part way up Solander from the west side of the rim, turn left and then drive down the steeper north facing slopes with the stratographic sections,” Arvidson told me.
“That way we don’t have to drive up the relatively steeper slopes. The rover can drive up rocky surfaces inclined about 12 to 15 degrees.”
“We want to go through the stratographic sections on the north facing sections.”
The science team hopes that by scaling Solander, Opportunity will build on her recent historic discovery of a habitable environment at a rock called “Esperance” that possesses a cache of phyllosilicate clay minerals.
These aluminum rich clay minerals typically form in neutral, drinkable water that is not extremely acidic or basic and therefore could support a path to potential Martian microbes.
“Esperance ranks as one of my personal Top 5 discoveries of the mission,” said Steve Squyres of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., principal investigator for NASA’s rover mission at a recent media briefing.
Using high resolution CRISM spectral data collected from Mars orbit, the rover was specifically directed to Esperance, Arvidson explained. The rock was found about a kilometer back on Matijevic Hill at ‘Cape York’, a rather low hilly segment of the western rim of giant Endeavour crater which spans 14 miles (22 km) across.
‘Solander Point’ offers roughly about a 10 times taller stack of geological layering compared to ‘Cape York.’ Both areas are raised segments of the western rim of Endeavour Crater.
The team is working now to obtain the same type of high resolution spectral evidence for phyllosilicate clay minerals at Solander as they had at Cape York to aid in targeting Opportunity to the most promising outcrops, Arvidson explained.
Opportunity is snapping ever more spectacular imagery of Solander Point and the eroded rim of Endeavour Crater as she approaches closer every passing Sol, or Martian Day. See our original photo mosaics herein by Marco Di Lorenzo and Ken Kremer.
The long lived robot arrived at the edge of Endeavour crater in mid-2011 and will spend her remaining life driving around the scientifically rich crater rim segments.
On June 21, 2013, Opportunity marked five Martian years on Mars since landing on Jan 24, 2004 with a mere 90 day (Sol) ‘warranty’.
This week Opportunity’s total driving distance exceeded 23 miles (37 kilometers).
The solar powered robot remains in excellent health and the life giving solar arrays are producing plenty of electrical power at the moment.
Solander Point also offers northerly tilled slopes that will maximize the power generation during Opportunity’s upcoming 6th Martian winter .
The rover handlers want Opportunity to reach Solander’s slopes by August, before winter’s onset.
As ot today (tosol) Opportunity has trekked about halfway from Cape York to Solander Point – tip to tip.
On the opposite side of Mars at Gale Crater, Opportunity’s younger sister rover Curiosity also discovered clay minerals and a habitable environment originating from a time when the Red Planet was far warmer and wetter billions of years ago.
And this is your last chance to “Send Your Name to Mars” aboard NASA’s MAVEN orbiter- details here. Deadline: July 1, 2013. Launch: Nov. 18, 2013
14 Replies to “Opportunity Approaching Mountain Climbing Goal and Signs of Habitable Martian Environment”
As usual, great stuff! One small nit though, a typo? “On June 21, 2013, Opportunity marked five Martian years on Mars since landing on Jan 24, 2004 with a mere 90 day ‘warranty’.”
don’t see any typos
Right you are! A recent double hernia surgery has me on pain pills, so I haven’t been exactly 100% lately and missed the full context in your excellent report…
am wishing you the very best. I too had a hernia operation and know it takes some time to recover. take extra care of yourself and don’t overdo it.
Aqua – I ask you. – What other planet or moon would you send probes to other than Mars? Venus is out this question. Hydrochloric atmosphere, 800 degree heat in the shade, and volatile woman(lol). What planet or moon would you send probes?
Europa, Io, Ganymede, Calisto, Enceladus, Titan, Rhea, Mimas, Dione, Iapetus, Tethys, Hyperion, Janus, Epimeheus, Miranda, Titania, Ariel, Oberon, Umbriel, Triton… and that’s just for starters!
Yes me too. 😉 Especially the icy moons! The rocky moons can wait. I’d attach a drill with a heating element (easier said than done) to get samples of liquid Aqua just 4 U ;-). I’d want to see if microbial life exists on those ice cube balls. The rocky moons would be last on my docket. 😉
Did you perhaps mean sulfuric acid clouds? As far as I know, Venus’ atmosphere is primarily CO2 and N2 and doesn’t contain significant amounts of either hydrogen or chlorine. It does, however, have approximately 150 ppm of sulfur dioxide…
LOL…yes I did. Thank you for correcting my error. Either way I would not want to send any probe there.
Hope you heal fast 😉
A martian year is almost 687 earth days on length. 😉
yes – and that makes 5 martian years total so far
just as Kelly implied I am amazed that a person can make $4897 in one month on the computer. did you look at this web page www.KEP2.com
Nice to see this sturdy little robot still producing so much excellent science.
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