Opportunity Mars Rover mission: Overview and selected results from Purgatory ripple to traverses to Endeavour crater



[1] Opportunity has been traversing the Meridiani plains since 25 January 2004 (sol 1), acquiring numerous observations of the atmosphere, soils, and rocks. This paper provides an overview of key discoveries between sols 511 and 2300, complementing earlier papers covering results from the initial phases of the mission. Key new results include (1) atmospheric argon measurements that demonstrate the importance of atmospheric transport to and from the winter carbon dioxide polar ice caps; (2) observations showing that aeolian ripples covering the plains were generated by easterly winds during an epoch with enhanced Hadley cell circulation; (3) the discovery and characterization of cobbles and boulders that include iron and stony-iron meteorites and Martian impact ejecta; (4) measurements of wall rock strata within Erebus and Victoria craters that provide compelling evidence of formation by aeolian sand deposition, with local reworking within ephemeral lakes; (5) determination that the stratigraphy exposed in the walls of Victoria and Endurance craters show an enrichment of chlorine and depletion of magnesium and sulfur with increasing depth. This result implies that regional-scale aqueous alteration took place before formation of these craters. Most recently, Opportunity has been traversing toward the ancient Endeavour crater. Orbital data show that clay minerals are exposed on its rim. Hydrated sulfate minerals are exposed in plains rocks adjacent to the rim, unlike the surfaces of plains outcrops observed thus far by Opportunity. With continued mechanical health, Opportunity will reach terrains on and around Endeavour's rim that will be markedly different from anything examined to date.