Monday, December 27, 2010

Opportunity gets to Santa Maria Crater

In a post not long ago (here), I noted that Mars Rover Opportunity's next landmark, and probably the only major landmark before the Endeavour crater rim, was a cute and dark little crater named Santa Maria. Well, I just remembered to check on the rover site, and Opportunity has been making good progress, such that it has now arrived at Santa Maria. They are going to take a look around for a few weeks before heading off toward Endeavour again.

This is all explained in the extended captions to the press release images here:I wish there were anchors for the captions on the page, so that they wouldn't get shoved down as more images are put up, but there aren't, so I'm just going to reproduce the relevant images here with parts of the captions. And they even provided a context map!

A football-field-size crater, informally named "Santa Maria," dominates the scene in this 360-degree view from NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity.

This image of Santa Maria Crater was taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The context map shows that after they take their extended look at Santa Maria, there isn't much between there and the rim of Endeavour. Tally ho!

The red line on this map shows where NASA's Mars Rover Opportunity has driven from the place where it landed in January 2004 -- inside Eagle Crater, at the upper left end of the track -- to where it reached on the 2,436th Martian day, or sol, of its work on Mars (Nov. 30, 2010). The map covers an area about 15 kilometers (9 miles) wide. North is at the top.

Drives subsequent to Sol 2436 in early December 2010 brought Opportunity closer to Santa Maria Crater, which is about 90 meters (295 feet) in diameter.

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