Scientists in charge of NASA’s Opportunity Rover said the next mission will be to explore a valley on Mars believed to have outcrops of clay minerals. Opportunity Rover resumed its exploring on June 27 after driving for more than three weeks on the Red Planet. According to the NASA scientists, the rover was not programmed to store any scientific data overnight, meaning that it haD to transmit the information on the same day it collected it.
NASA’s Opportunity Rover will be exploring a Martian area that is approximately half the size of a normal football field. It will then enter and explore the west side of the Marathon Valley, close to the rim of the Endeavor Crater, which measureS approximately 22 km in diameter.
The Opportunity Rover arrived on Mars in 2004 and since 2011 it has been busy exploring the rim of the massive Red Planet Endeavor crater. Scientists and engineers in charge of operating the rover said the mission of exploring the Marathon Valley will begin in August and will last for several months.
Marathon Valley is as big as three football fields and is facing east-west, according to NASA. The valley has been observed and studied by the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer that was aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The scientists detected clay minerals that could reveal important information about Mars’ environmental conditions in ancient times.
NASA researchers want to use the Opportunity Rover to further explore the clay deposits and analyze their chemical composition. The team has plans to drive the rover this month to the northern side of the valley because the slope will be facing south. According to the scientists, at the moment, Mars’ southern hemisphere is experiencing early autumn. This hemisphere will reach winter and its short days in January.
As soon as the Opportunity reaches its destination, it will first examine the surrounding rocks near a crater the scientists named “Spirit of St. Louis”. The rover will be operating in a special mode that does not include onboard memory, also known as “non volatile flash memory.” Using this mode, the rover will be able to store data even if it has the power turned off at night.
NASA’s Opportunity Rover has been functioning in this mode for a few months in 2014. John Callas, manager of the Opportunity project, explained that the rover can accomplish a lot using this mode; the rover can transmit the data it collects that same day.
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