UnNews:Mars Rover finds beautiful oasis on Mars

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28 September 2006

Mars34

Unlike most of Mars, Victoria Crater is a delightful, fertile oasis.

LOS ANGELES Sep 28, 2006 (AP)— The Mars rover Opportunity reached the rim of a deep crater Wednesday after an arduous 21-month trek, and discovered a wonderful, fertile oasis with crystal-clear, fresh water and shady palm trees.

The rover beamed colorful images back to Earth showing the crater interior, which is vastly different than the rest of Mars, which is at best a boring, barren, frosty hell-hole devoid of life, strewn with rocks and dust.

"Wow! I wonder if there are fish in there," said rover principal scientist Steve Squyres of Cornell University, referring to the small pond at the bottom of the crater.

The road to Victoria Crater, a half-mile wide and 230-foot deep impact crater, was tough. The six-wheeled Opportunity drove through what scientists called a "wasteland." At one point, it spent five weeks stuck hub-deep in a slippery sand dune before freeing itself.

Victoria, with its exposed walls of thickly layered shoreline, is a treasure trove for scientists trying to determine whether the rocks were formed in larger lakes, which might suggest the planet was once covered with oceans instead of the small ponds like the one discovered.

"The big payoff will be maybe finding tadpoles or some other animal life that lives off the palm trees," said deputy principal investigator Ray Arvidson of Washington University in St. Louis.

Opportunity will spend a day looking for a more favorable spot around the rim to take a panorama of the vista. Meanwhile, scientists are plotting Opportunity's next move and analyzing the images to find the safest route down to the shore.

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