Sunday, September 16, 2007

Opportunity begins Victoria descent

After an initial cautious probe a few days ago to check for wheel slippage, mission controllers have now committed the Opportunity rover to a full exploration of the large Victoria crater. Opportunity re-entered the crater during the rover's 1,293rd Martian day, or sol, (Sept. 13, 2007) to begin a weeks-long exploration of the inner slope. John Callas, the Mars rover project manager has described the exposed rock features in Victoria as like a bathtub ring, with hopes high that the impact which caused the crater will have exposed million year old geological evidence. Opportunity is now about 20 feet (6 meters) inside the rim, with the aim being to reach a layer of light-coloured rock exposed along the crater's inner slope within about a week. The total mission time within the crater is scheduled to last 3 months.