"We can't be certain about the terrains and footing until we go in there. But we know the rewards are worth the risk," said Alan Stern, NASA's associate administrator.
Opportunity will enter Victoria Crater at Duck Bay, said to be the safest location for descent. The mission will be what is known as a "toe dip," briefly entering near the crater's edge.
The rover's proximity to the crater's edge will allow scientists to address potential problems.
"If there are any issues in terms of performance, we are very close to the edge of the rim, so we are confident we can get back out again," Callas explained.
If the toe dip goes according to plan, Opportunity will head toward the Bright Band.
Reflecting on the dangers awaiting the elderly robotic explorer, Steve Squyres, principal science investigator for the rovers, said, "We want to get in and get out while we have a six-wheel rover. So if we're ever going to do it, now's the time."
Free Email News Updates
Sign up for our Inside National Geographic newsletter. Every two weeks we'll send you our top stories and pictures (see sample).
SOURCES AND RELATED WEB SITES