Source Pravda.Ru

Mars Exploration Rover Spirit nears Martian hilltop

The Mars Spirit rover has reached a milestone moment in its exploration of the Red Planet.

Spirit has wheeled into position atop Husband Hill - a range the rover first observed on the distant horizon from its Gusev crater landing site in January 2004.

Images being transmitted by Spirit showed a breathtaking view as it ascended to the hilltop.

"The view is really opening up," said Larry Crumpler, a member of the Mars rover science team. Mars rover science teams are prepared to do a "full summit campaign" of observations, he said.

Crumpler said in an earlier interview, once at the summit, one of the goals there will be to take a hard look at the basin to the south where one of the long term targets of interest - an outcrop known as Home Plate - is located, reports CNN.

According to Space.com, the inner basin area of the Columbia Hills contains a broad range of interesting geological targets, including the feature dubbed "Home Plate" and other possible layered outcrops. These features suggest that the hills contain rock layers. Spirit might investigate the layers to determine whether they are water-deposited sedimentary rock.

Mars rover science teams are prepared to do a "full summit campaign" of observations, said Larry Crumpler, a member of the Mars rover science team. He is also research curator in volcanology and space sciences at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science in Albuquerque.

Spirit is roughly a kilometer from the east side of the basin on the way to Home Plate. The rover drive to reach that area might take a few months, Crumpler said.