NASA's Mars Opportunity rover getting travel tips from orbiting spacecraft

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Washington, Dec 17 (ANI): NASA's Mars Opportunity rover, which is exploring areas that might hold clues about past Martian environments, is getting important travel tips from an orbiting spacecraft.

Researchers are using a mineral-mapping instrument aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) to help the rover investigate a large ancient crater called Endeavour.

MRO's Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars (CRISM) is providing maps of minerals at Endeavour's rim that are helping the team choose which area to explore first and where to go from there.

As MRO orbits more than 150 miles high, the CRISM instrument provides mapping information for mineral exposures on the surface as small as a tennis court.

"This is the first time mineral detections from orbit are being used in tactical decisions about where to drive on Mars," said Ray Arvidson of Washington University in St. Louis. Arvidson is the deputy principal investigator for the Spirit and Opportunity rovers and a co-investigator for CRISM.

Opportunity's science team chose to begin driving the rover toward the 14-mile-wide crater in 2008, after four years studying other sites in what initially was planned as a three-month mission. The rover has traveled approximately nine miles since setting out for Endeavour crater. It will take several months to reach it. (ANI)

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