WASHINGTON, Sept. 7 (UPI) -- NASA's Mars rover Opportunity is closing in on what the U.S. space agency calls an overlooked and rich science trove -- a huge and geologically lush crater.
During the next two weeks, the robotic rover is likely to reach the rim of a crater that's wider and deeper than any it has visited on Mars. The crater, known as "Victoria," is approximately one-half mile wide and 230 feet deep.
"Victoria has been our destination for more than half the mission," said Ray Arvidson of St. Louis's Washington University, the deputy principal investigator for Opportunity and its twin rover, Spirit.
"Examination of the rocks exposed in the walls of the crater will greatly increase our understanding of past conditions on Mars and the role of water," he said.
The NASA rovers have been on Mars since January 2004.
"It's an amazing accomplishment that Spirit and Opportunity have completed the equivalent of 10 prime missions," said John Callas, rover project manager. "We can't say how long the rovers will last, but we will push to get the best possible science out of these national treasures as long as they keep operating."