The latest findings from NASA’s Mars rover, Opportunity, were recently presented at the 45th annual Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, California.Opportunity was launched in 2003 and is coming up on its ninth anniversary.
“Almost nine years into a mission planned to last for three months, Opportunity is fit and ready for driving, robotic-arm operations and communication with Earth,” said the mission’s deputy project scientist, Diana Blaney, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in a statement from NASA.
Right now Opportunity is studying an area of great interest called Matijevic Hill which may hold clay minerals. These minerals form under non-acidic wet conditions which may also be able to sustain life. Researchers are now ready to start more detailed work to determine if there really is clay in this area.
Opportunity's leisurely drive around Matijevic Hill, a crater-rim site where the Mars orbiters detected traces of clay minerals.
A panoramic picture of Matijevic Hill shows Opportunity's tracks on the far right. So far the rover has traveled 22 miles.
A panoramic view of Matijevic Hill, named after Jacob Matijevic, who led the engineering team of Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity and worked on Curiosity, too.
Two areas of great interest on the hill are Whitewater Lake and Kirkwood. This image is from Whitewater Lake.
Here's a closer view of these spheres, made from four images taken during Oppy's 3,064th day on Mars.
Whitewater lake is where researchers believe there may be clay that forms under wet conditions, and that water increases the likelihood that that those areas of the planet could maybe sustain life.
Opportunity is brushing and grinding this rock called Sandcherry to examine why is has such a weird coating covering, which the clay could be hiding under.
Opportunity's rock abrasion tool digs in to the rock to test them for clay, slowly brushing away the outer layers of rock.
The rover is currently still testing the rocks at Sandcherry to find out what the weird white vein in the rock is. A few more measurements of the rock and its surroundings will be taken during December, continuing to search for the mineral signature seen in this orbiter image of Cape York.
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