There wasn't a dull moment for the Mars Exploration Rover mission in August as Opportunity drove up to the base of the Solander Point section Endeavour Crater's eroded rim, crossed over a geological boundary between ancient eras, maneuvered through a boulder field, scooting unscathed from a near-miss with a rock that could have ended it all, and at month's end delivered her team to what looks to be another scientific gemstone on the Red Planet.
The Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) mission Opportunity celebrated the 10th anniversary of its launch on July 7, 2003, and then went on to complete the last leg of its 2 km trek from Cape York to Solander Point. But just before the robot field geologist pulled onto the actual base of the ridge where it will spend its sixth Martian winter, Mars lured the team off the path with some of the weirdest Martian rocks the scientists have seen yet.
It was a merry and mighty month of May for the Mars Exploration Rover mission: Opportunity finished a blockbuster study of Matijevic Hill finding the best evidence yet for an ancient, potentially habitable environment, and then embarked on its first real road trip in two years. The robot field geologist had barely gotten underway on its journey when it surpassed the Apollo 17 lunar rover distance record to become the most traveled NASA vehicle on another planetary body.
Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity left Cape York on May 14th and embarked on a 2-kilometer journey south along the western rim of Endeavour Crater. The rover is heading now to Solander Point, where it will spend the coming Martian winter.
As the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) team waited out solar conjunction, Opportunity spent most of April atop the western rim of Endeavour Crater, conducting a chemical analysis of an ancient waterborne vein on Matijevic Hill. It was by the book until the last week of the month when the robot field geologist suffered an electronic "hiccup" known as a warm re-boot, and went into auto mode, a kind of safe mode when something doesn't go right.
As the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission trekked further into its tenth year of exploring the Red Planet, Opportunity spent the month of March finishing up its science investigations on Matijevic Hill.
As February turned to March, Opportunity was conducting some of its final science investigations on Matijevic Hill, the MER team was making preparations for the robot field geologist's trek south for the next winter, and the Mars Exploration Rovers mission was checking off another month of exploration.
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.
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.
Our Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) update has recorded the journeys of the twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity on the surface of Mars since their arrival in January of 2004. It is a treasure trove of information, insight, and high-quality reporting detailing every step of this unprecedented voyage of discovery.