With its robot nose to the Martian grindstone, Opportunity completed its ninth year of working on Mars in January, making another significant science discovery in tiny white veins on Matijevic Hill as the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission rolled on into Year 10.
We finished up with examination of the big outcrop ("Copper Cliff") and moved to the next target over the weekend. With that drive Opportunity completed the loop around Matijevic Hill and is now back where it started on the big loop to examine the outcrops.
Despite the lull of the holidays, the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission recorded one of the expedition's best months ever in December as Opportunity and her team confirmed the location of the smectite clay minerals on Matijevic Hill, effectively grabbing the scientific brass ring they came hoping to find at Endeavour Crater.
2013 is going to be a busy year in space exploration. Two missions launch to the Moon (LADEE and Chang'E 3), and another two to Mars (MAVEN and India's mission). Curiosity should drive to the Mountain, and Opportunity to the next site on Endeavour's rim. Cassini will be seeing rings and Titan. Others should continue routine operations, except maybe MESSENGER, whose fate after March is not yet decided.
Join Emily Lakdawalla and Casey Dreier for a chat with Jim Bell, a scientist who wears many hats. He's the team lead for the Pancam color cameras on the Spirit and Opportunity rovers; he's a member of the Curiosity science team; and he's the esteemed President of the Planetary Society's Board of Directors. We'll talk about the great science being done by both Curiosity and Opportunity, and about what's in store for the future.