See pic: NASA's Mars rover Opportunity scales challenging terrains!

Opportunity is NASA's senior rover, which has been on Mars for 12 years now.

Updated: Feb 26, 2016, 10:38 AM IST
See pic: NASA's Mars rover Opportunity scales challenging terrains!
Image courtesy: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.

New Delhi: NASA's rovers on Mars Curiosity and Opportunity are scaling the Red Planet, traversing through all its nooks and crannies to provide us with all the latest updates.

NASA has long since been researching and studying to find out means of life sustainance on Mars. Therefore, NASA needs all the data they can get their hands on to plan deep space missions and a Mars mission is top priority. Images of Mars sent by the two rovers help in providing this data.

Opportunity is NASA's senior rover, which has been on Mars for 12 years now. Working diligently on one of Mars' most challenging terrain, on a slope of 30 degrees, Opportunity has beamed back amazing images.

According to NASA reports, researchers are using Opportunity this month to examine rocks that may have been chemically altered by water billions of years ago. The mission's current targets of investigation are from ruddy-tinted swaths the researchers call "red zones," in contrast to tan bedrock around these zones.

The targets lie on "Knudsen Ridge," atop the southern flank of "Marathon Valley," which slices through the western rim of Endeavour Crater.

Opportunity began climbing Knudsen Ridge in late January with two drives totaling 31 feet (9.4 meters). The wheels slipped less than 20 percent up slopes as steep as 30 degrees, the steepest the rover has driven since its first year on Mars in 2004. The slip is calculated by comparing the distance the rotating wheels would have covered if there were no slippage to the distance actually covered in the drive, based on "visual odometry" imaging of the terrain the rover passes as it drives.

John Callas, Mars Exploration Rover Project Manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, told NASA that, “Opportunity showed us how sure-footed she still is. The wheel slip has been much less than we expected on such steep slopes."

The team is accomplishing productive science with Opportunity while avoiding use of the rover's flash memory, which was linked to several unplanned computer reboots last year. The only data being received from Opportunity is what can be transmitted each day before the solar-powered rover shuts down for energy-conserving overnight "sleep."