The Opportunity rover is on the verge of completing its marathon on Mars, but before it crossed the imaginary finish line in the Marathon Valley, the brave six-wheeled robot discovered strange stones that would need further study.
"We drove to the edge of the plateau to look at the valley and found these large, dark gray boulders along the ridge," said Matt Golombek, a project researcher at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "We conducted an examination of one of them and found that its composition is different from anything found on Mars before."
Marathon Valley is so called because when the rover got to this area, it became for him a “finish line” 26 miles and 385 yards long, or 42, 195 km. At its current location, Opportunity is located just 128 meters from the ultimate goal. In addition to being the ultimate destination of the 11-year-old Mars rover mission on the Red Planet, the valley also contains clay material. This clay contains valuable information about the wet past of Mars. But it seems that the entrance to the valley has become as valuable as the valley itself.
One of the bizarre-looking boulders was nicknamed “Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau” and, using his robotic arm with an alpha particle X-ray spectrometer, the rover found that the stone contains a relatively high concentration of aluminum and silicon relative to other Mars rocks studied.
Currently, the Opportunity research team has selected a different stone called “Sergeant Charles Floyd” for additional analysis.