Of the two old rovers that NASA has on Mars — Spirit and Opportunity, both launched in 2003 — only one is still active. And Opportunity is being a faithful warhorse, still moving 13 years after it landed on the Martian surface, despite being originally designed only for a three-month stay.
In its latest maneuver, the Opportunity rover is leaving from its current position in “Cape Tribulation” — a segment of the western rim of the Endeavour Crater. And it is moving to a location just south of where it is currently, a place called “Perseverance Valley.” It is about four football fields drive for the rover to the top of the valley, which is located within Cape Byron.
Before it leaves “Cape Tribulation,” Opportunity took a number of panoramic photographs of a groove ridge called “Rocheport.” A composite of those photographs was released Wednesday by NASA.
In an accompanying statement, Opportunity Deputy Principal Investigator Ray Arvidson, of Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, said: “The degree of erosion at Rocheport is fascinating. Grooves run perpendicular to the crest line. They may have been carved by water or ice or wind. We want to see as many features like this on the way to Perseverance Valley as we can, for comparison with what we find there.”
The valley where the rover is headed to is about two football fields long in an east-west orientation that cuts across the rim of the crater. The rover will start from the top of the valley and attempt to drive all the way to the bottom. This will allow scientists to understand how the valley was carved.
Since the start of its mission, Opportunity has driven 27.6 miles on the Martian surface, of which only about 0.4 miles were driven since the start of 2017. The Endeavour Crater has a diameter of about 14 miles.