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Mars rover Opportunity reaches the Endeavour Crater (PHOTOS)

August 12, 2011 - 05:00 AM
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Three years of travel has brought NASA's Opportunity rover to the brink of the gaping Endeavour crater. The never-before-seen view is pretty damn fantastic.

Three years after dropping by the charming roadside attraction Victoria Crater, NASA's wee Mars Rover Opportunity has traveled 13 miles to reach the next destination on its journey around the Red Planet. Below, gape at the never-before-seen view of Endeavour Crater, a yawning hole in the planet's surface about 24 miles wide.

The crater is full of all kinds of neat rocks and old dirt that Opportunity can examine for water and mineral content. Its next destination is the closest peak seen in the first and fourth images. Read more about the Mars Exploration Rover Mission here. And if you missed it earlier, here are the deets on the possible liquid, salty water flowing on Mars during the summertime.

Here's a shot of the western rim of Endeavour Crater, enhanced with a false-color filter to show material distinctions in the rocks and soil. The rover took this photo on its 2,678th Martian day (or "sol") on the Red Planet. Says NASA: "The ground in the foreground is covered with iron-rich spherules, nicknamed 'blueberries,' which Opportunity has observed frequently since the first days after landing. They are about 0.2 inch (5 millimeters) or more in diameter."

mars rover opportunity sends new photos of endeavor crater at spirit point

This was the bleak view when Opportunity arrived at Spirit Point, a location on the crater rim named after the rover's twin, Spirit. That little robot sank in soft soil and then went dead in 2010 after six years of exploration on the opposite side of the planet. That was 20 times the length of its planned mission – NASA builds its 'bots to last.

mars rover opportunity sends new photos of endeavor crater at spirit point

Another angle of Spirit Point shows a smaller depression in the Martian terrain, dubbed Odyssey, sited on the rim of Endeavour Crater. Opportunity traveled three years to see this? Perhaps the view is more majestic when you're actually there.

mars rover opportunity sends new photos of endeavor crater at spirit point

Without the false-color enhancement, the Martian atmosphere looks a lot less inviting. Definitely some Code Red air quality right here. And if you love rocks, and I know you do, get ready to be amazed. NASA says: "The lighter-toned rocks closer to the rover in this view are similar to the rocks Opportunity has driven over for most of the mission. However, the darker-toned and rougher rocks just beyond that might be a different type for Opportunity to investigate." The closest ridge on the horizon, called Solander Point, is the rover's next potential port of call.

mars rover opportunity sends new photos of endeavor crater at spirit point
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