The exploration of Mars by the Mars Opportunity rover continues. The rover reached Spirit Point yesterday. The rover is overlooking a 14-mile-wide crater where clay minerals might have formed during a warmer, wetter period.
“Clay minerals form in wet conditions so we may learn about a potentially habitable environment,” NASA Mars Exploration Rover science team member Matthew Golombek said in a news release.
The minerals appear to be very different from the younger, drier rocks comprising plains that Opportunity has crossed since the rover began surface operations in January 2004.
About the size of a golf cart, the Opportunity rover arrived at Mars a few weeks after its twin, Spirit. Opportunity’s current location was named Spirit Point in honor of the Spirit rover, which last communicated with flight controllers in March 2010. Spirit’s mission was officially concluded in May.
The Opportunity rover set out on a 13-mile trip to Endeavour crater after data from NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter detected clay minerals that might have formed there when water flowed on the planet’s surface.
NASA launched the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station during the summer of 2003. The rovers both operated well beyond their three-month prime missions.