Rover Opportunity wrapping up study of Martian valley
"Marathon Valley," slicing through a large crater's rim on Mars, has provided fruitful research targets for NASA's Opportunity rover since July 2015, but the rover may soon move on.
|'Marathon Valley' on Mars opens northeastward to a view across the floor of Endeavour Crater in this |
scene from the panoramic camera (Pancam) of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity
[Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.]
Marathon Valley lured the mission because researchers using NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter had mapped water-related clay minerals at this area of the western rim of Endeavour Crater. The rover team chose the valley's informal name because Opportunity's arrival at this part of the rim coincided closely with the rover surpassing marathon-footrace distance in total driving since its January 2004 Mars landing.
"We are wrapping up our last few activities in Marathon Valley and before long we'll drive away, exiting along the southern wall of the valley and heading southeast," said Opportunity Principal Investigator Steve Squyres, of Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.
"What we usually do to investigate material that's captured our interest is find a bedrock exposure of it and use the RAT," Squyres said. "What we didn't realize until we took a close-enough look is that this stuff has been so pervasively altered, it's not bedrock. There's no solid bedrock you could grind with the RAT."
Instead, the rover exposed some fresh surfaces for inspection by scuffing some of the reddish material with a wheel.
"Fractures running through the bedrock, forming conduits through which water could flow and transport soluble materials, could alter the rock and create the pattern of red zones that we see."
Author: Guy Webster | Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory [June 15, 2016]