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Martian Crater Provides Reminder of Apollo Moonwalk

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Mars Rover Opportunity’s View of ‘Orion Crater’

NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover passed near this small, relatively fresh crater in April 2017, during the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 16 mission to the moon. The rover team chose to call it “Orion Crater,” after the Apollo 16 lunar module. The rover’s Panoramic Camera (Pancam) recorded this view.

The crater’s diameter is about 90 feet (27 meters). From the small amount of erosion or filling that Orion Crater has experienced, its age is estimated at no more than 10 million years. It lies on the western rim of Endeavour Crater. For comparison, Endeavor is about 14 miles (22 kilometers) in diameter and more than 3.6 billion years old.

This view combines multiple images taken through three different Pancam filters. The selected filters admit light centered on wavelengths of 753 nanometers (near-infrared), 535 nanometers (green) and 432 nanometers (violet). The three color bands are combined here to show approximately true color.

The component images were taken on April 26, 2017, during the 4,712th Martian day, or sol, of Opportunity’s work on Mars. The rover’s location on that sol, during its approach toward “Perseverance Valley” on the Endeavour rim, is indicated on a map at https://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/mer/mission/tm-opportunity/images/MERB_Sol4711_1.jpg as the endpoint of the Sol 4711 drive.

Apollo 16 astronauts John Young and Charles Duke flew in the Orion lunar module to and from the first human landing in the lunar highlands while Ken Mattingly orbited the moon in the command module, Casper. On the moon, Young and Duke investigated Plum Crater, which is approximately the same size as Mars’ Orion Crater.


Martian Crater Provides Reminder of Apollo Moonwalk

NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity passed near a young crater this spring during the 45th anniversary of Apollo 16’s trip to Earth’s moon, prompting a connection between two missions.

Opportunity’s science team informally named the Martian feature “Orion Crater.” The name honors the Apollo 16 lunar module, Orion, which carried astronauts John Young and Charles Duke to and from the surface of the moon in April 1972 while crewmate Ken Mattingly piloted the Apollo 16 command module, Casper, in orbit around the moon. Orion is also the name of NASA’s new spacecraft that will carry humans into deep space and sustain them during travel beyond Earth orbit.

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Opportunity’s Panoramic Camera (Pancam) took component images for this view of Orion Crater on April 26, 2017. The crater is about 90 feet (27 meters) wide and estimated to be no older than 10 million years.

“It turns out that Orion Crater is almost exactly the same size as Plum Crater on the moon, which John Young and Charles Duke explored on their first of three moonwalks taken while investigating the lunar surface using their lunar rover,” said Opportunity science-team member Jim Rice, of the Planetary Science Institute, Tucson, Arizona.

Rice sent Duke the Pancam mosaic of Mars’ Orion Crater, and Duke responded, “This is fantastic. What a great job! I wish I could be standing on the rim of Orion like I was standing on the rim of Plum Crater 45 years ago.”

source: NASA – Jet Propulsion Laboratory – California Institute of Technology

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