Einstein Science Reporting for Kids
[ E-mail ]
7-Sep-2006

Contact: Science Press Package
scipak@aaas.org
202-326-6440
American Association for the Advancement of Science

Opportunity Rover on Mars keeps going and going



Rover Opportunity is traveling Mars and sending back information to Earth. Photo courtesy of NASA

Imagine having a robot with a transformer-like tool that you can send to a distant planet. It could send back photos so you could see that planet's landscape and provide you information about the rocks it finds because the transformer can open up rocks and test what is inside.

But wait, you don't have to imagine! NASA's Rover Opportunity is traveling on Mars and sending back pictures and other information scientists are using to learn more about that planet.

More than two years ago, the Opportunity Rover landed and started transmitting information about what "it" was seeing and what rock and soil was made of. Opportunity was scheduled to travel very slowly around a spot called "Meridiani Planum" for about 30 Martian days. Martian days are about 45 minutes longer that Earth days. Just like a certain battery-driven pink bunny, Opportunity kept collecting and sending information back to Earth. This gave researchers a lot of time to have the rover examine Mars' surface even at the close-up, microscopic level.

Scientists at NASA and other laboratories study the information the Opportunity sends. Findings from the first two years show that Mars used to have lots of water on the ground but it was very acidic. The conditions on the ground were also very dry like a desert and very acidic, too.

Researchers learned some of this information after the first few months Opportunity was on Mars. But scientists want lots of information to help them make sure they are correctly interpreting the information they gather. A larger amount of information usually helps them be more precise about their findings.

###

About the Opportunity Rover
The Rover looks like a rectangular platform on wheels. It is about 5 feet high and 7 feet long. The tools are on top and include a panoramic camera that allows the rover to see 360 degrees, just as if you stood in one place and turned all the way around taking in the view.

Opportunity has a grinder to cut into rocks and instruments that can tell what materials the rock is made of. There are also magnets to collect the dust on Mars. The same instruments that tell researchers what the rocks are made of can tell them what the dust is made of, too.

For more information about the Opportunity Rover on Mars, see http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/.