Opportunity Robustly in Action on 12th Anniversary of Red Planet Touchdown

Opportunity Sol 4234_3a_Ken Kremer

NASA’s world famous Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity continues blazing a daily trail of unprecedented science first’s, still swinging her robotic arm robustly into action at a Martian “Mining Zone” on the 12th anniversary of her hair-raising Red Planet touchdown this week, a top rover scientist told Universe Today.“Looks like a mining zone!” Opportunity Deputy Principal Investigator Ray Arvidson, of Washington University in St. Louis, explained to Universe Today. On Jan. 24 the rover marked 4267 Sols and a dozen years and counting exploring Mars. Significantly, Opportunity also just passed through winter solstice on Sol 4246 (Jan. 3, 2016), corresponding to the lowest-solar-energy days of the mission’s seventh Martian winter.At this very moment and despite the “low energy” season Opportunity is actively at work, having just completed grinding into a high value rock surface target called “Private John Potts” at her current location inside steep walled Marathon Valley – where she is conducting breakthrough science on smectite clay mineral bearing rocks yielding clues to Mars watery past. “Just finished multiple grinds on Private John Potts to establish baseline compositions for rocks,” Arvidon told me. “Marathon Valley is unlike anything we have ever seen.”This is especially exciting to researchers because the phyllosilicate clay mineral rocks formed under water wet, non-acidic conditions that are more conducive to the formation of Martian life forms – billions of years ago when the planet was far warmer and wetter.“We have been in the smectite [phyllosilicate clay mineral] zone for months, ever since we entered Marathon Valley,” Arvidson confirmed.See our exclusive mosaic views (above and below) of the Martian worksite at Marathon Valley showing the robotic arm in motion and rock grinding results – created by the imaging team of Ken Kremer and Marco Di Lorenzo.Jan. 24 marks the 12th anniversary since Opportunity’s safe landing —> Read More