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Mars rover’s roll echoes moonshot stroll

Opportunity view of Mars crater
NASA’s Opportunity rover snapped a picture of its own tread marks as it passed by Orion Crater on Mars. (NASA / JPL-Caltech / Cornell / ASU)

Forty-five years after the astronauts of Apollo 16 rode out on a rover to look over a crater on the moon, NASA’s Opportunity rover looked over a crater on Mars – and sparked a chain of coincidences.

To mark the linkage, Opportunity’s science team named the feature on Mars “Orion Crater.” That pays tribute to the Apollo 16 astronauts, who named their lunar module Orion. It’s also the name of the future NASA spaceship that may help astronauts get to Mars someday.

Orion Crater is about 90 feet wide and thought to be no more than 10 million years old.

“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,” the Planetary Science Institute’s Jim Rice, a member of Opportunity’s science team, said in a NASA image advisory issued today.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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