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September 22, 2008

A new Endeavour for Opportunity

Posted: 05:17 PM ET

The Mars rover Opportunity has a new destination – it's turning its wheels southeast and heading for a massive crater called "Endeavour."

The small crater in the upper left corner is Victoria. Opportunity is located nearby. The rover will be heading southeast toward the massive Endeavour Crater. This image was taken by NASA’s Mars Odyssey Spacecraft. Credit: NASA/JPL/ASU

Opportunity departed Victoria Crater late last month after spending about two years rolling around the rim and studying rock formations just inside.

Endeavour is nearly 14 miles wide and 1000 feet deep, many times larger than Victoria, and features a far thicker stack of exposed layered rocks than those studied to date. Opportunity will have to traverse about seven miles across the Martian plain to reach it, doubling the total distance the rover has put on its odometer since landing back in 2004.

Mission managers admit the trip is going to be a long haul, and the aging rover may never get there.   But if it does, the scientific pay-off, not to mention the pictures, should be spectacular.

-Kate Tobin, Sr. Producer, CNN Science & Tech

Filed under: Mars • NASA • Space

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Ed   September 22nd, 2008 7:03 pm ET

"Opportunity departed Victoria Crater late last month after speeding about two years "


S Callahan   September 22nd, 2008 7:50 pm ET

Glad to see things roaming along....

What is science hoping to find that would make it a scientific payoff (other than the significance that the rover is even there)? Does the rover have testing equipment for soil/rock sampling? Just curious. It amazes me these machines are still roving around. Kudos to the ones who built them.

Franko   September 22nd, 2008 10:59 pm ET

Perhaps, the team that designed the rowing Mortian Robots, could impart their insights and skills to car manufacturers. Extreme reliability under extreme onditions, sipping on minuscile solar eergy. Spinoff, extreme payback ratio is the way to go.

Derek   September 23rd, 2008 12:28 am ET

S Callahan: The rovers do have some basic soil/rock sampling in that they can do some minor surface brushing and also determine the composition and properties of the soil via onboard spectrometers. Spectrometers basically analyze material by passing different waves (x-rays and gamma rays for instance) and seeing what is absorbed. It's a bit like taking an x-ray of your body. Onboard magnets help pick up various soil samples and the microscopic imager can, well, take really up close pictures of various targets.

If Opportunity ever makes it to Endeavor, which would be amazing but I am not so sure it will make it, then we should be able to see some very diverse geological formations. A meteorite dug up quite a lot of material and thus we have several layers of soil that we can study. Think of how geologists here on Earth study our planet and have determined Earth's geological history.

Exploring such a target should tell us quite a lot about that region's (Meridiani Planum) geologic and possibly hydrologic history. Basically we can learn more about how Mars evolved and how water might have affected the environment and for how long.

Franko: They could, but then our cars might cost a few hundred million dollars each. The rovers have to be hardened because of the extreme radiation in the Martian environment as well as the extreme temperature fluctuations (we are talking about a minus two hundred to maybe thirty or forty degrees fahrenheit with a heat wave 'maybe' reaching sixty degrees fahrenheit). Our cars here on Earth typically don't need much more than a good coat of paint to stave off oxidation and thus rust and a good heater or air conditioner so that it's occupant can feel comfortable. Gasoline does a pretty decent job at operating at various temperatures though on particularly cold days way up north your vehicle might not like to start.

I do recommend that everyone look at how NASA contributes to each state's economy and how its spinoffs have greatly influenced the way we live.

Hopefully these robotic explorers (and others out there in the solar system) will continue to give us amazing images and insightful data.

Franko   September 23rd, 2008 12:10 pm ET

"but then our cars might cost a few hundred million dollars each"
Research already spent, produced very good results.
Adapted, mass produced, GM send a few designers for ideas to NASA

Something wrong with my GM designed fuel system, not even close to Martian conditions, temperatures and dust storms.

Mark   September 23rd, 2008 12:17 pm ET

"Opportunity will have to traverse about seven miles across the Martian plain to reach it, doubling the total distance the rover has put on its odometer since landing back in 2004."

This thing has only traveled 3 miles in 4 years?!

teekrul   September 23rd, 2008 4:03 pm ET

Ed, Spending not speeding....

S, yea they have basic testing equipment even if they could just take pictures and send them back they could still attempt to see what the soil was made of.

Mark, they prolly only move @ a speed of 3 miles an hour tops. And also it said doubling meaning if it has to travel 7 miles which will double the distance traveled ... meaning its gone 7 miles in 4 years =D but... seriously its taken a massive amount of pictures and soil samples also it only works during the "day" and they have it where they want just seemed like it took 2 years for them to get bored w/ that crater

Now on to bigger craters =)

CB_Brooklyn   September 23rd, 2008 4:15 pm ET

Intelligent life on Mars is already proven via the NASA photos here. (No joke. Take a look for yourself.)

Mars Anomalies – Photos and Booklet

Derek   September 23rd, 2008 8:48 pm ET

Franko: actually the rovers would still cost tens of millions of dollars a piece. A microprocessor alone can cost a couple hundred thousand dollars due to extensive (and I mean extensive) quality control checks and radiation-hardening. They have to ensure these components can survive space. But all this is besides the point. If you want a car the size of a golf cart that can traverse terrain at a speed of maybe an inch a second but be fully protected from high amounts of solar radiation and temperature fluctuations then go for it. I don't think the car manufacturers really have an issue with making cars that are pretty reliable (Honda and Toyota come to mind) for the most part. Admittedly, American manufacturers tend to have more of an issue with this probably due to less-stringent quality control along with continuing to use old engine designs with new car bodies.

By the way Franko, thankfully our Mars rovers don't rely on internal combustion technology which, with SO MANY different parts, and us driving them tens or hundreds of thousands of miles at various speeds and styles, no wonder they break down.

Mark: teekrul had it right, but you also have to remember that it relies on solar panel technology that can only generate so much power. This power has to be divided amongst the instruments, computer system, heaters to protect it from the cold as well as the six electric motors. Generating only enough power to power a 100 watt light bulb for 7 hours (and this is max at the very beginning of the mission... now for Spirit is is a bit over 2 hours and Opportunity might be 5 or 6) doesn't give you a lot of power to accelerate the rover.

CB: take these things with a grain of salt. Images can be photoshopped or fake altogether. Additionally, some Martian structures are explained by geological phenomena including the thawing of underground ice and etc.

CB_Brooklyn   September 25th, 2008 7:16 pm ET

Derek: The photos in the booklet I linked to are from

*Some* Martian structures maybe explained by geological phenomena, but not *all* of them.

Derek   September 25th, 2008 11:24 pm ET

CB: Well I am not expert on this matter, so to debate on it would be rather pointless. All I can ask of you is to take things with a grain of salt. It's like watching clouds. You might notice peculiar patterns and, hey, is that cloud smiling at me?

We can all leave open possibilities, but we should never throw out something as definitive unless we have substantial evidence to prove so.

Hope you have a wonderful day.

Franko   September 26th, 2008 4:05 am ET

Mars Rovers point back to the future of efficiency;

"Lohner Porsche, fitted with one wheel motor in each of the front wheels, appeared at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1900 ... autos moved to gas engines with transmissions however they were never as efficient as electric wheel hub motors"

Japan got US foothold in 1970's oil crisis, and kept gaining market share.
This time, Chinese, around town vehicles at your Wall E market ?

johnell deloach   September 27th, 2008 9:27 pm ET

this article is so not important

Derek   September 28th, 2008 3:23 pm ET

Johnell: everything is subjective. People might think you are "so not important" but does that mean it's true? Maybe, maybe not. I suppose you're just intellectually-adverse.

Franko   September 29th, 2008 12:55 am ET

A design that works well on Mars.
On Earth, modify, add Free Piston Power, diesel electric, 50% effifient.

Larian LeQuella   September 29th, 2008 3:45 pm ET

Heck of a 90 day mission, eh?

Jackie Stone   September 29th, 2008 11:46 pm ET

Still is exciting, even if we remain the only known Martians.

Franko   October 3rd, 2008 5:48 pm ET

Back to the mother planet, scorched will become Mars
Human destiny is to dine on fried Martian spiders.
Dine or be dined upon, is the survivors' question.

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