Opportunity rover approaches Martian gully after leaving Cape Tribulation

Composite view of the grooved ridge called Rocheport; the images were taken by Opportunity as it was leaving Cape Tribulation. The view extends from the south-east to the north. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

For about the past 30 months, the Opportunity rover has been exploring Cape Tribulation on Mars, a towering ridge on the rim of Endeavour crater. Now, Opportunity has finally left that location, to continue its journey southward down the western side of the crater rim. The views have been scenic from the top of Cape Tribulation, but now it is time to move on, and head to the next major target, an ancient gully not too far to the south-east, also on the crater rim. This gully is thought to have been carved by running water millions or billions of years ago, so scientists are very interested in examining it up close, and the rover is now almost there.

The gully, called Perseverance Valley, is about the length of two football fields, and cuts through the crater rim. Although it is considered likely to have been formed by water, mission scientists need to study it in detail to determine whether it actually was, or could have been created by ice or wind instead. Opportunity is now closing in on the gully, and as of now is less than four football field lengths away.

“From the Cape Tribulation departure point, we’ll make a beeline to the head of Perseverance Valley, then turn left and drive down the full length of the valley, if we can,” said Opportunity Deputy Principal Investigator Ray Arvidson, of Washington University in St. Louis. “It’s what you would do if you were an astronaut arriving at a feature like this: Start at the top, looking at the source material, then proceed down the valley, looking at deposits along the way and at the bottom.”

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