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Air & Space

Mars rover makes first move after surviving winter

  • Mars Rover opportunity.jpg

    A digital model of the Opportunity rover added to a real image of the inside of Endurance Crater on Mars -- n earlier by Opportunity itself -- shows what the explorer would look like to a Martian observer. (U. Cornell, JPL, NASA)

  • Mars Rover 2012.jpg

    May 8, 2012: Opportunity started driving again this week -- and snapped this undated photo of Mars -- after spending 19 weeks in one spot conducting science experiments. (AP Photo/NASA)

The Mars rover Opportunity is on the go again.

After spending nearly five months conducting experiments in one spot, the NASA rover moved for the first time this week, rolling off the rock outcrop where it hunkered down for the Martian winter.

The mission team received confirmation late Tuesday that Opportunity successfully drove downhill. Engineers will check its power supply before directing it north to study dust and bedrock.

Opportunity will have to wait until there's more sunlight before it can head south where there's tantalizing evidence of clay deposits believed to have formed in a warm and wet environment early in Mars' history.

Since landing in 2004, Opportunity has surpassed expectations. Its twin Spirit lost contact in 2010 not long after it got stuck in a sand trap.