Mars exploration rover reaches Endeavour crater

NASA’s Mars exploration rover has arrived at the Red Planet’s Endeavour crater which measures some 14 miles (22 kilometers) in diameter.

The rover – named Opportunity – reached its destination after driving approximately 13 miles from its previous location at Victoria crater.

According to NASA, Endeavour became a “tantalizing” destination after the Reconnaissance Orbiter detected clay minerals which may have formed during an early warmer and wetter period.

As such, scientists expect to analyze older rocks and terrains than those examined by Opportunity during its first seven years on Mars.

“We’re soon going to get the opportunity to sample a rock type the rovers haven’t seen yet,” explained Matthew Golombek, Mars Exploration Rover science team member, at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif.

“Clay minerals form in wet conditions so we may learn about a potentially habitable environment that appears to have been very different from those responsible for the rocks comprising the plains.”

NASA launched the Opportunity and Spirit Mars rovers in the summer of 2003. Both completed their three-month primary missions in April 2004 and continued years of extended operations – making important discoveries about wet environments on ancient Mars that may have been favorable for supporting microbial life.

NASA continues to search for evidence that water persisted on the Martian surface for a long period of time. Other Mars missions have shown water flowed across the surface in the planet’s history, but scientists have not yet positively determined if water remained long enough to provide a habitat for life.