Mars rover Opportunity heading toward "Spirit Point"

11:19, June 09, 2011      

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NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is heading toward "Spirit Point" on the rim of a large crater, a long-term destination that the rover has been trying to reach for nearly three years, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) announced on Wednesday.

Opportunity has moved toward the crater, Endeavour, since climbing out of Victoria crater in August 2008.

Having driven 11 miles (18 kilometers), the rover has about two miles (about three kilometers) to go before reaching the rim of Endeavour, said JPL in Pasadena, Los Angeles.

Rover team members last week selected "Spirit Point" as the informal name for the site on the rim where Opportunity will arrive at Endeavour crater. The choice commemorates Opportunity's rover twin, Spirit, which has ended communication and finished its mission.

"Spirit achieved far more than we ever could have hoped when we designed her," said Steve Squyres of Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, principal investigator for the rovers. "This name will be a reminder that we need to keep pushing as hard as we can to make new discoveries with Opportunity. The exploration of Spirit Point is the next major goal for us to strive for."

Endeavour offers the setting for plenty of productive work by Opportunity. The crater is 14 miles (22 kilometers) in diameter -- more than 20 times wider than Victoria crater, which Opportunity examined for two years. Orbital observations indicate that the ridges along its western rim expose rock outcrops older than any Opportunity has seen so far. Spirit Point is at the southern tip of one of those ridges, "Cape York," on the western side of Endeavour.

Opportunity and 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.

NASA's JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Mars Exploration Rover Project for the NASA Science Mission Directorate, Washington.

Source: Xinhua
 
 
     
 
 
 
     
 
 
 
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