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Opportunity Mars Rover: Studying “High-Value” Surface Targets

NASA Opportunity rover - also busy at work on Mars! Credit: NASA/JPL

Opportunity's Traverse Map Through Sol 3128. Credit: NASA/JPL

While the world anxiously awaits next week’s news from the NASA Curiosity rover, the elder rover on Mars – Opportunity – continues to grind away at Red Planet science.

Opportunity has begun a science campaign on some high-value surface targets.

The robot’s set of arm-mounted science instruments is in full swing; “Sandcherry” is the target being studied with a Microscopic Imager (MI), followed by the placement of the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS). In addition, Opportunity’s Rock Abrasion Tool (RAT) was used to brush the target.

Also, over the last several sols, the rover has been collecting an extensive color panorama, called the “Matijevic pan.”

“Matijevic Hill” has been named in honor of the late JPL worker, Jake Matijevic, at the inboard edge of Cape York on the rim of Endeavour Crater.

A few weeks ago, the rover began to detect an increase in atmospheric opacity (Tau). It was created by a large regional dust storm, with high atmospheric opacity in the center of the storm, heading in the direction of the rover. Fortunately, the storm passed to the south of the rover, but Opportunity did see an increase in atmospheric dust.

Elsewhere on Mars, the Curiosity rover is the “newbie” on the planet. Opportunity landed on Meridiani Planum on January 25, 2004!

By Leonard David

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