Mars rover halfway to next destination

Sept. 9, 2010 at 6:39 PM
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PASADENA, Calif., Sept. 9 (UPI) -- NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has reached the halfway point in its journey to its next science destination on the planet, U.S. scientists say.

With a drive of 364 feet on Monday, Opportunity was halfway on its 11.8-mile journey from Victoria Crater to Endeavour Crater, the agency said Thursday.

After completing its three-month primary mission in April 2004, Opportunity spent two years exploring in and around Victoria Crater, which is about a half mile in diameter.

Endeavour Crater is about 14 miles in diameter.

After Endeavour was selected as a long-term destination, observations of the crater's rim by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter revealed the presence of clay minerals.

This finding makes the site an even more important science destination. Clay minerals form exclusively under wet conditions, and while they've been observed extensively on Mars from orbit, they have not been examined on the surface, NASA said.

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