Web Special: Welcome to Mars’ Victoria Crater

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.

CRATER SHOT. The rover Opportunity is visible at the 10 o’clock position along the rim. The image also features Duck Bay, the eroded section of the rim; Cabo Frio, a sharp promontory to the south of Duck Bay; and Cape Verde, another promontory to the north. NASA/JPL/UA

Scientists will use this detailed aerial view to guide Opportunity’s descent into the crater, says rover principal investigator Steve Squyres of Cornell University.

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.

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