Mars rover on the move again after rest

May 10, 2012 at 8:12 PM
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PASADENA, Calif., May 10 (UPI) -- NASA's Mars rover Opportunity is on the move again after patiently waiting out its fifth Martian winter season, the space agency said.

With increasing solar energy available each day, the rover has driven off the sun-facing outcrop called Greeley Haven, where it has sat motionless for 19 weeks, a NASA release reported Wednesday.

The rover operations team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., received confirmation of the completed drive late Tuesday, relayed from NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter.

"We're off the Greeley Haven outcrop onto the sand just below it," rover driver Ashley Stroupe at JPL said. "It feels good to be on the move again."

Opportunity kept a northward tilt of about 15 degrees at its winter haven to keep its solar panels favorably angled toward the winter sun low in the northern sky.

Opportunity arrived at the Cape York section of the rim of Endeavour Crater in the Meridiani region of Mars in August 2011 and has been studying rock and soil targets there since then.

"Our next goal is a few meters farther north on Cape York, at a bright-looking patch of what may be dust," Opportunity science-team member Matt Golombek said. "We haven't been able to see much dust in Meridiani. This could be a chance to learn more about it."

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