The rim of a Martian crater called Victoria stands out like a scalloped cookie cutter in this high-resolution image taken Oct. 3 by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The new image captures features as small as 81 centimeters across. It shows the rover Opportunity as a speck on the crater’s northwestern edge. The rover is poised to explore the massive cliffs ringing the 800-kilometer-wide crater.
Scientists will use this detailed aerial view to guide Opportunity’s descent into the crater, says rover principal investigator Steve Squyres of Cornell University.
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The inner wall of the crater shows thick layers of sedimentary rocks, which may have been laid down in a watery environment. The downhill movement of material that has fallen from the crater walls creates Victoria’s sculpted edge, which includes clifflike highs and jutting ledges. A field of sand dunes lines the center of the crater floor.
Opportunity drove more than 5 km to reach the crater’s edge. Both Opportunity and its twin, Spirit, have been on Mars since January 2004.