A NASA statement recently announced that the aerospace agency’s Mars Exploration Rover, the Opportunity, just reached the primary target of its current mission, the Perseverance Valley. The research team extended the rover’s current two-year mission so it could take a closer look at this interesting location.
The “Perseverance Valley” is a fluid-carved valley which was incised on the inert slope at the rim of a vast crater on Mars. Opportunity started getting close to the area in early May and has since started beaming back data.
Next Target: The Perseverance Valley
Images taken by the rover’s camera offer a better look at the different areas of this valley. Previously, researchers had to work with images captured from orbit above Mars. Now, they can start turning to the high-resolution images taken by the Opportunity.
“The science team is really jazzed at starting to see this area up close and looking for clues to help distinguish among multiple hypothesis about how the valley formed,” stated Matt Golombek.
He is an Opportunity Project Scientist and part of the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, California. Golombek points out that research has yet to determine how the Perseverance Valley came to exist.
This was carved into the rim of the Endeavour Crater, some billions of years ago, by a process still unidentified. Scientists put forth and are analyzing a number of possible factors. For example, water could have helped shaped this valley.
Or it could have been the result of a debris flow. As water lubricated a mix of boulders and mud, this may have helped form a path that later developed into a valley.
Perseverance Valley may have even appeared as the result of wind erosion, a much drier process than the other variants.
Now, Opportunity’s primary target for this mission is to try and determine which was the most likely cause. It will do so by gathering data from any of the remaining evidence. Scientists hope that this information will help them determine the most likely formation process.
Image Source: NASA
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