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Opportunity: NASA Rover Completes Mars Mission


– We have positive confirmation
of a safe landing. – We’re seeing it on the LCP. [wild celebration] [indistinct chatter] [wild celebration] [John Callas] Opportunity
hit a hole-in-one when she landed. The airbag system rolled
into this small crater called Eagle crater. And when the rover first
turned on its cameras, it saw that the rim of
this small crater was lined with
exposed bedrock. [Steve Squyres] So, we
took out our microscope for the first time
and we took a picture and the surface of
Mars at that location is littered with an
uncountable number of little round things… [Abigail Fraeman] …that were
called blueberries because they looked like blueberries
in a muffin. What we discovered was that
those are features that form in water and they were a really
definitive sign that there had been liquid water
on the surface of Mars some time in the past. [Callas] You know, after
we left Eagle crater we went to Endurance crater and that’s the crater
we drove down in. And there we did the what
the geologists call an in sequence
stratigraphic section, which is essentially
reading the chapters of the Martian history
book in reverse order. [Matt Golombek] That rover
became a stratigrapher. First time we had a
stratigrapher on Mars. [laughs] We knew we wanted to go
after Endurance to Victoria. [Callas] We put the
pedal to the metal, and we started
heading there, tens of kilometers away. We had to literally
surf across these dunes of windblown material, and the rover got
stuck in one of those. We had to get the rover unstuck. What we found is the
best way to get it out is just to put it in
reverse and gun it. [Laughs] The rover eventually
popped out. And, so we changed
our driving strategy. So we recognized these
ripples as hazards. We get to this giant half-mile
diameter crater– Victoria crater–and
we want to figure out, “Gee, how can we go
into this thing?” [Golombek] All of a sudden, we
got HiRISE images. We could see the
rover in the image. [Squyres] That was the very
first image that we got from space showing
one of our rovers. [Golombek] We spent a year
scouting the edge of that crater to decide where we
wanted to go in to get the best
stratigraphic section. [Callas] We found a place to go
in, and we drove down in and we spent about a year
inside Victoria crater. [Heather Justice] The science
team was really excited about the idea of driving to Endeavor
Crater…over 20 km away. This is a long drive to do. It was gonna take
multiple years, but they decided
to do it anyways. [Callas] There were
too many of these dangerous ripples
in our way, and we actually had to take
this circuitous route that at times took us away from the
crater only to then cut back and then approach it more directly. [Justice] And then we pull up
to Endeavor crater and all of a sudden there’s all
these new things to look at. [Fraeman] We first discovered
the Homestake vein. It was this very, very bright
linear feature. It turns out that it was
a big gypsum vein, and we see these gypsum
veins now all over. So, it was our first
taste of what is a really important
process on Mars. [Justice] We were driving to a
valley and along the way there we realized that right
about the point where we were about to
get to this valley, that was when we were gonna
cross the marathon mark. So we said, “well, that’s cool,
we’re just going to name this valley after that, call it
Marathon Valley.” That was when we reached the
distance of a marathon, 26.2 miles, on another planet. We continued driving
through some slopes down, a little bit on the interior
of the crater rim until we came back out so
that we could continue onto the next valley,
Perseverance Valley… [Golombek] …where the
rover was exploring when we lost contact. [Fraeman] We said, “We’re
gonna operate this vehicle until the day where we can’t,” and that’s exactly
what we did, and I’m really proud. [Callas] We’ve set a
foundation that will serve as the basis for
future exploration. [Opportunity 2004-2019] [NASA / Jet Propulsion
Laboratory California Institute
of Technology]

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