Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is heading south after spending the better part of its mission inside “Endurance Crater” on Meridiani Planum. Within the crater, Opportunity observed bedrock and discovered strong evidence for past surface water over an extended period of geologic time (and perhaps more than once in Martian history.) The rover also looked up out of the crater and spotted clouds, a rare sight in images from the surface of Mars.
The scientific data obtained was analyzed in depth over the past few months and the results were recently published in a special issue of Science Magazine. The top background image is of the clouds, the bottom background image is of “Burn’s Cliff” within the crater, and the foreground image is from Opportunity’s look back after climbing out of the crater.
Both Opportunity and its sibling rover Spirit have survived long after their initial 3-month mission, nearing a year at work on the Red Planet. Because of this success, the mission team is planning riskier trips across more rugged terrain. Opportunity will next travel south across Meridiani Planum to a more rugged region.