Opportunity rolls out of Purgatory

After being stuck for nearly 5 weeks, the Mars rover Opportunity has freed itself from a sand trap dubbed Purgatory Dune. All six wheels of the rover had been mired up to their rims in soft sand since the vehicle drove into the small dune on April 26.

MAKING TRACKS. Opportunity’s view after emerging from a sand trap. JPL/NASA

From May 13 through June 4, the rover team directed the robot to slowly spin its wheels. Opportunity finally gained enough traction over those 3 weeks to move a meter to extricate itself from the sand. Researchers now plan to examine the site to understand why it was so much more troublesome than the dozens of other similar-looking dunes that the rover traversed without incident since landing on Mars in January 2004.

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