Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., said Opportunity descended the inner slope of the half-mile-wide Mars crater Tuesday, navigating toward a band of relatively bright exposed bedrock. The rover will be commanded to examine a selected slab of rock with tools at the end of its robotic arm.
"This will be the first of several stops within this band of rock," said Steve Squyres of Cornell University, principal investigator for Opportunity's science payloads. "By sampling it at several different levels in the crater, we’re hoping to figure out the processes that led to its formation and its very distinctive appearance."
Opportunity drove 7.38 feet Tuesday to get the selected flat rock within reach. That was the 1,305th Martian day of a mission originally planned for 90 Martian days.
"We have completed several successful drives with Opportunity inside Victoria Crater," said John Callas, Mars rover project manager at JPL. "The rover is experiencing slopes as high as 25 degrees at some places, but wheel slippage has only been around 10 percent."