OCT 13, 2016 11:01 AM PDT

NASA to Have its Opportunity Mars Rover Ride Down a Gully Into a Crater

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

NASA’s Opportunity Rover is still rolling around on the red planet and being used to the study the surface today, even since its initial landing in 2004. This proud piece of machinery has outlasted its expected life by more than 50 times and continues to roll along as Mars’ oldest rover.
 
The Opportunity mission recently saw a two-year extension, and NASA plans to take full advantage of that. The Opportunity Rover has now been given yet another mission.
 
The rover will now be tasked with taking a ride down a gully that was carved into the surface by flowing liquid (presumably water) a long time ago to get inside of the crater that Opportunity has been studying for the past half-decade, something that NASA says no Matrian rover has ever done before.
 

An image of of floor of the Endeavour Crater that the Opportunity Rover will seek to explore.

 Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

“We are confident this is a fluid-carved gully, and that water was involved,” said Opportunity Principal Investigator Steve Squyres of Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. “Fluid-carved gullies on Mars have been seen from orbit since the 1970s, but none had been examined up close on the surface before.”
 
“One of the three main objectives of our new mission extension is to investigate this gully. We hope to learn whether the fluid was a debris flow, with lots of rubble lubricated by water, or a flow with mostly water and less other material.”
 
Once inside, Opportunity will begin exploring the innards of the crater to learn more about it. More specifically, it will roam the Western rim of the Endeavor crater. This crater is 14 miles in diameter and was created by an asteroid impact billions of years ago.
 
One of the main objectives there will be to see whether or not the rocks inside the crater resemble those outside. This will let scientists know what kind of asteroid hit Mars long ago.
 
“We may find that the sulfate-rich rocks we've seen outside the crater are not the same inside,” Squyres said. “We believe these sulfate-rich rocks formed from a water-related process, and water flows downhill. The watery environment deep inside the crater may have been different from outside on the plain -- maybe different timing, maybe different chemistry.”
 
Learning as much about the red planet as we can before sending humans there is a major interest. Both NASA and SpaceX want to send mankind to Mars within the next couple of decades.
 
Before then, however, the many rovers on Mars’ surface continue to look for signs of life and study the red planet’s chemistry, and another rover is scheduled to be sent to Mars in 2020 with even higher-tech equipment that can answer even more of our never-ending questions.
 
Source: NASA

About the Author
Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
JUL 30, 2022
Chemistry & Physics
A Brown Dwarf from the Early Universe is Lurking in Our Neighborhood
JUL 30, 2022
A Brown Dwarf from the Early Universe is Lurking in Our Neighborhood
When one refers to a star or a galaxy or any other object as metal-poor, it simply means that this object was formed in ...
AUG 06, 2022
Space & Astronomy
Dense, Turbulent Environments Form Multiple Star Systems
AUG 06, 2022
Dense, Turbulent Environments Form Multiple Star Systems
Stars are born in “stellar nurseries,” otherwise known as molecular clouds. Much research has been done to u ...
OCT 19, 2022
Cell & Molecular Biology
Return of the Zombie Bacteria
OCT 19, 2022
Return of the Zombie Bacteria
Bacterial cells may shut down for many reasons. But how do they know when to wake up? Researchers have found the answer.
NOV 16, 2022
Space & Astronomy
Where Did the Planets Go?
NOV 16, 2022
Where Did the Planets Go?
A new study published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters presents a solution to some mysterious patterns that have sho ...
DEC 02, 2022
Space & Astronomy
What is Cosmic Radiation?
DEC 02, 2022
What is Cosmic Radiation?
Labroots recently covered a hibernation study that examines how this technology can potentially protect future astronaut ...
NOV 23, 2022
Space & Astronomy
JWST Images a Star in the Midst of Formation
NOV 23, 2022
JWST Images a Star in the Midst of Formation
This image can easily be mistaken for a planetary nebula, but it is actually an image of a young star in the midst of fo ...
Loading Comments...