For Immediate Release
Contact: Randall Gann
NMMNHS Scientist an Integral Part of New Solar System Distance Record!
Last Sunday afternoon, the Mars Rover Opportunity set a new record for our Solar System! It went for a 48 meter drive along the rim of Endeavour crater on Mars. At the end of that drive, Opportunity had achieved something that no other rover on the Moon or Mars had ever done: It had driven more than 40 kilometers (over 25 miles!) on the surface of Mars. Throughout that record breaking effort, Dr. Larry Crumpler has maintained a running map of not only the location and traverse path, but of the geology of the planet. This is the first geologic map on another world assembled from the same type of data that we used to make maps here in New Mexico. A geologist walks out contacts between different rock types, looks at the rocks up-close using a hammer and hand lens, and even samples them for chemical analysis. Opportunity does exactly the same thing, except the samples are analyzed right on the spot, 150 million miles away!
The geologic mapping requires a good map of the position of the geologist or of the rover. So as a part of the mapping process, Crumpler keeps close tabs on the rover’s location on the surface of Mars. He did this for Spirit over on the other side of Mars before that rover went incommunicado, and he does it for Opportunity at Endeavour crater.
In fact, Crumpler just submitted a manuscript about the geologic mapping at Endeavour crater to Journal of Geophysical Research. He has been on the Mars Exploration Rover science team since 2002 and is responsible for Long Term Planning at daily team telecoms that help decide where the rover goes and what it does, so this distance record is particularly sweet for him. Crumpler said, “It’s nice to be part of a record like this, but the really cool thing is that in those 25 record-breaking miles we have seen more of the Mars landscape than anyone had ever dreamed possible.”
For more information on this record, please see the official press release.
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