NASAs Mars rover Opportunity catches first glimpse of distant destination

March 19th, 2009 - 5:06 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, March 19 (ANI): The panoramic camera on NASAs Mars rover Opportunity has caught a first glimpse on the horizon of the uplifted rim of the big crater that has been Opportunitys long-term destination for six months.

Opportunitys twin, Spirit, also has a challenging destination, and last week switched to a different route for making progress.

Endeavour Crater, 22 kilometers (14 miles) in diameter, is still 12 kilometers (7 miles) away from Opportunity, and at least 30 percent farther away on routes mapped for evading hazards on the plain.

Opportunity has already driven about 3.2 kilometers (2 miles) since it climbed out of Victoria Crater last August after two years of studying Victoria, which is less than one-twentieth the size of Endeavour.

Its exciting to see our destination, even if we cant be certain whether well ever get all the way there, said John Callas of NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, project manager for the twin Mars rovers, Opportunity and Spirit.

At the pace weve made since leaving Victoria, the rest of the trek will take more than a Martian year, he added.

A Martian year lasts about 23 months.

According to Steve Squyres of Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., principal investigator for the rovers science instruments, We can now see our landfall on the horizon. Its far away, but we can anticipate seeing it gradually look larger and larger as we get closer to Endeavour.

We had a similar experience during the early months of the mission watching the Columbia Hills get bigger in the images from Spirit as Spirit drove toward them, he said.

Both rovers landed on Mars in January 2004 to begin missions designed to last for three months. Both are still active after more than five years.

For the next several days, the rover team plans to have Opportunity use the tools on its robotic arm to examine soil and rock at an outcrop along the route the rover is taking toward Endeavour. (ANI)

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