OCT 13, 2016 11:01 AM PDT

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

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
OCT 21, 2019
Space & Astronomy
OCT 21, 2019
The Science Behind Nuclear Fission-Powered Space Engines
The cold and unforgiving environment in outer space presents a lot of challenges, with one of those being power generation. Solar arrays can be capable eno...
OCT 21, 2019
Space & Astronomy
OCT 21, 2019
Here's Why Scientists Are So Interested in Studying Venus
Several planetary bodies in the solar system are of particular interest to planetary scientists because they may teach us more about the history of the sol...
OCT 21, 2019
Space & Astronomy
OCT 21, 2019
The 'Fulton Gap' Could Explain an Ongoing Question Regarding Planet Formation
When looking at the bulk of distant exoplanets discovered by astronomers over the years, one thing seems obvious: most of those are either smaller to or eq...
OCT 21, 2019
Space & Astronomy
OCT 21, 2019
NASA Plans to Use a Space-Rated Drone to Study Titan
NASA is planning to develop a $1 Billion mission dubbed ‘Dragonfly’ to study Saturn’s moon Titan, a world that scientists have long thoug...
OCT 21, 2019
Space & Astronomy
OCT 21, 2019
How NASA's Dragonfly Mission Will Teach Us More About Titan
If you haven’t already heard, NASA is planning to launch a new mission dubbed Project Dragonfly, which will study Saturn’s moon Titan to learn...
OCT 21, 2019
Chemistry & Physics
OCT 21, 2019
Trio Brought Home Breakthrough Physics Prize for Their Work on Supergravity
Announced on July 6, 2019, the Selection Committee of Special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physic has picked three theoretical physicists, Sergio Ferr...
Loading Comments...