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NASA Mars rover will roll into its ultimate crater destination this week

NASA Mars rover Opportunity should see inside Endeavour crater

By Layer 8 on Mon, 08/08/11 - 12:41pm.

nasa opportunity travelsNASA's Mars rover Opportunity will likely peer over the rim of its ultimate destination this week, the huge Endeavour crater.

According to a NASA post late last week, Opportunity was only about 120 meters (394 feet) from "Spirit Point," the first landfall on the rim of Endeavour crater.

The 22 kilometer- (14 mile-) wide crater has been the rover's destination since it finished exploring Victoria crater in August 2008. Endeavor is of interest to scientists because NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter satellite has shown the crater to have clay minerals and older geological deposits, the space agency stated.  Clay minerals, which form exclusively under wet conditions, have been found extensively on Mars from orbit, but have not been examined on the surface, NASA said.

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The western rim of Endeavour has a series of ridges. Spirit Point is the southern edge of a ridge called "Cape York," NASA said.  

NASA said Opportunity was using its Autonomous Exploration for Gathering Increased Science, or AEGIS system to examine images that the rover takes with its wide-angle navigation camera after a drive, and recognize rocks that meet specified criteria, such as rounded shape or light color. The system then can then center its narrower-angle panoramic camera on the chosen target and take multiple images through color filters, NASA stated. AEGIS lets Opportunity look at rocks at stopping points along a single day's drive or at the end of the day's drive. This lets the rover identify and examine targets of interest that might otherwise be missed, NASA said.

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter had its own big news last week as NASA said satellite spotted possible flowing water, furthering the idea that Mars has or still does harbor life. The results from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter are the closest scientists have come to finding evidence of liquid water on the planet's surface, NASA said. Frozen water, however has been detected near the surface in many middle to high-latitude regions.

Follow Michael Cooney on Twitter: nwwlayer8  

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