Friday, 22 February, 2019

NASA's Opportunity rover completes 5000th Martian days, unveils a surprise about Mars

NASA is sending a piece of Mars back home Modal Trigger NASA
Theresa Hayes | 19 February, 2018, 13:14

Apart from Spirit and Opportunity, NASA's Curiosity rover is strolling around the red planet and has completed over 1,960 sols.

The rock will part of the 2020 Mars rover mission where it will be blown up to test the calibration process for the rover's hyper-sensitive laser measurement device, dubbed "SHERLOC". Talking about its major contributions in Mars exploration mission, the rover has captured a large number of rocks and soils on Mars's surface and also provided some significant pieces of evidence that shows the presence of water on ancient Mars. The images reviled by NASA show some ground texture which is quite similar to the mountain slopes present on Earth which made by a process of freezing and thawing of wet soil for many years. NASA did not expect the rover to survive through a Martian winter.

On February 17, NASA's Mars Opportunity rover marked 5,000 local days, also called as sol, of operations on the planet.

So far, the rover has driven 45km from its landing site and is now looking at Perseverance Valley - a shallow channel at the western rim of the planet's Endeavour Crater. One Martian day is referred to as a sol, and is nearly 40 minutes longer than the 24-hour day on Earth. After minor adjustments and re-orientation, NASA controllers were able to calibrate the rover and it has since been working commendably. Previously, the Lunokhod 2 had traveled 39 kilometers to the moon.

"The SHERLOC instrument is a valuable opportunity to prepare for human spaceflight as well as to perform fundamental scientific investigations of the Martian surface", said Marc Fries, a SHERLOC co-investigator. At "Home Plate", a circular feature in the "Inner Basin" of the "Columbia Hills", Spirit discovered finely layered rocks that are as geologically compelling as those found by Opportunity. But, according to NASA, it might also be due to the wind, downhill transport, other processes or a combination.

"Perseverance Valley is a special place, like having a new mission again after all these years".

"We already knew it was unlike any place any Mars rover has seen before, even if we don't yet know how it formed, and now we're seeing surfaces that look like stone stripes", Arvidson added. But Opportunity rover continued its off-world driving record, which stands at 28.02 miles (45.1 km) and counting. "It's exciting. I think the set of observations we'll get will enable us to understand it".

After further analyzing some clues, some of the researchers stated that such formations could've only appeared under the action of ice, wind, and/or water.

Other lines of evidence have convinced Mars experts that, on a scale of hundreds of thousands of years, Mars goes through cycles when the tilt or obliquity of its axis increases so much that some of the water now frozen at the poles vaporizes into the atmosphere and then becomes snow or frost accumulating nearer the equator.