Mars Rover Opportunity Finishes 3-Year Trip

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The Mars rover Opportunity is still active, more than seven years after its original mission ended. The 400-lb exploring machine has been inching along the Red Planet's surface, and it finally got to its destination. Fox News explains.

"And the Mars rover going strong, completing a 13-mile, 3-year journey from one part of Mars to another. Ending up at a massive crater that scientists say shows evidence of water."

It took a year longer than planned to make the journey. The rover stopped at several other craters along the way, and communication was cut while Mars and Earth were on opposite sides of the sun. A researcher tells NPR -- it was still worth the trip.

JOHN GRANT: "Well, we know that the topography is related to an ancient impact. A meteorite slammed into the planet very early in Mars' history. And what makes it so interesting is that it's old material that's poking up through the younger plains that we've been traversing on. ... And the science team is just elated because we've reached this terrain that is obviously different than anything that we've been on before." (Image source: NASA)

Another reason scientists are excited to study the new crater -- water. Observations from orbiters show clay in the area. A writer for Time says -- clay would be a big find.

"No Mars lander or rover to date has had a closeup look at Martian clay -- and because clay forms in the presence of water, Opportunity may soon get a look at yet another piece of evidence from the days when Mars was a less barren place."

NASA are trying to keep expectations from getting out of hand, but there's an outside chance the clay could hold evidence of life. A writer for io9 says -- it's worth getting a little wound up over.

"...there's a chance that Opportunity could discover signs of ancient life in this crater, which pretty much instantly makes it one of the most exciting areas of study in the history of uncrewed space exploration."

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