Popping the Escape Hatch

Popping The Escape Hatch

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Wopmay rock on the slope of Endurance crater. This image was taken by the rover’s panoramic camera on sol 248 (Oct. 4, 2004), using its 750-, 530- and 480-nanometer filters. Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell

The banner image from the panoramic camera on NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity shows the potential plan for Opportunity’s exit from "Endurance Crater." Opportunity may attempt to leave Endurance via the route marked as the escape hatch, if scientists and engineers consider it safe after taking a closer look.

Before leaving, however, scientists plan to investigate the rock to the right dubbed "Wopmay," measuring 1 meter (3.3 feet) across, as well as other rocks near "Burns Cliff." Scientists are interested in Wopmay because its unusual texture is unlike any others observed so far at Meridiani Planum.

Once out of the crater, Opportunity may head to the heat shield, indicated on the left. The banner image was taken on the rover’s 249th martian day, or sol (Sept. 14, 2004). It is an approximate true-color composite generated from the panoramic camera’s 750-, 530-, and 430-nanometer filters.

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Earhart rock, too dangerous to reach. This image was taken on sol 219 (Sept. 4) by the rover’s panoramic camera, using its 750-, 530- and 430-nanometer filters.
Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell

The approximate true-color image of Wopmay rock taken by NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity shows an unusual, lumpy rock on the lower slopes of "Endurance Crater." The rock was named after the Canadian bush pilot Wilfrid Reid "Wop" May.

Like "Escher" and other rocks dotting the bottom of Endurance, scientists believe the lumps in Wopmay may be related to cracking and alteration processes, possibly caused by exposure to water. The area between intersecting sets of cracks eroded in a way that created the lumpy appearance. Rover team members plan to drive Opportunity over to Wopmay for a closer look in coming sols.

The false-color image taken of the rock Earhart by NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity shows a rock on the lower slopes of "Endurance Crater." The rock was named after the pilot Amelia Earhart. Like "Escher" and other rocks dotting the bottom of Endurance, scientists believe fractures in Earhart could have been formed by one of several processes.

They may have been caused by the impact that created Endurance Crater, or they might have arisen when water leftover from the rock’s formation dried up. A third possibility is that much later, after the rock was formed, and after the crater was created, the rock became wet once again, then dried up and developed cracks. Rover team members do not have plans to investigate Earhart in detail because it is located across potentially hazardous sandy terrain.

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Escher rock in Endurance crater. This image was taken on sol 208 (Aug. 24, 2004) by the rover’s panoramic camera, using the 750-, 530- and 430-nanometer filters.
Credit: NASA

The false-color image of the Escher rock taken by NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity shows a rock on the southwestern slopes of "Endurance Crater." Opportunity has spent the last 14 sols investigating Escher and other similar rocks with its scientific instruments.

The rocks located deeper into "Endurance Crater" are chemically altered to a greater degree than rocks located higher up. This chemical alteration is believed to result from exposure to water. Escher’s levels of chlorine went up relative to rocks higher in the crater, and sulfur went down, before the rover dug a hole into the rocks.

This implies that the surface of Escher has been chemically altered to a greater extent than the surface of rocks higher up. Using the rover instrument, an alpha X-ray spectrometer, scientists are still investigating the role water played in influencing this trend.

 

 


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Microscopic Imager
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Alpha Proton X-ray Spectrometer