Mars rover arrives at crater rim

Sept. 28, 2006 at 9:28 AM
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PASADENA, Calif., Sept. 28 (UPI) -- The U.S. space agency NASA says the Mars rover Opportunity arrived Thursday at the rim of Victoria Crater after a 21-month-long journey.

Initial images from Opportunity showed rugged walls with layers of exposed rock and a floor blanketed with dunes. The far wall of the crater is approximately one-half mile from the rover.

"This is a geologist's dream come true," said Steve Squyres of Cornell University, the principal investigator for NASA's twin rovers Opportunity and Spirit.

"Those layers of rock, if we can get to them, will tell us new stories about the environmental conditions long ago," said Squyres. "We especially want to learn whether the wet era that we found recorded in the rocks closer to the landing site extended farther back in time. The way to find that out is to go deeper, and Victoria may let us do that."

Opportunity has been exploring Mars since January 2004, more than 10 times longer than its original prime mission of three months.

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., manages the Mars exploration program.

The rover's view into the Victoria crater is available at http://www.nasa.gov/rovers

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