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Martian Crater Named After Lunar Module That Carried Apollo 16 Moon Mission Astronauts

17 June 2017, 5:23 am EDT By Luan Chan Tech Times
The young Martian crater that Opportunity rover passed by in April has been named after the Apollo 16 mission. Discover the interesting connections between the two.  ( NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ. )

Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity happened to pass by a Martian crater during the Apollo 16 Mission's Anniversary in April.

As a tribute to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's 10th moon landing, the crater was named the "Orion Crater," after Apollo 16's lunar module. However, it seems that NASA's chosen name may just be more appropriate than originally thought, because new information about the crater mirror an important part of the Apollo 16 mission.

Orion Crater And Apollo 16 'Connections'

There are actually three interesting things about Orion crater that makes its name so perfectly appropriate.

Reason No. 1: Sentimental Date
The first is that Opportunity rover passed by the crater during Apollo 16's 45th Anniversary, which is the main reason why NASA scientists decided to pay homage to the mission's lunar module.

Reason No. 2: Crater Photos
Opportunity Rover sent back panoramic images of the Orion crater on April 26, giving NASA scientists a good view of the depression on Martian soil. Take a look at the image of Orion crater below.

The Orion Crater as seen by Opportunity rover
(Photo : NASA/JPL-Caltech) The Orion Crater as seen by Opportunity rover

Interesting enough, one of the more popular photos from the Apollo 16 mission is of Astronaut Charles M. Duke Jr., the mission's Lunar module pilot, standing at the rim of one of the moon's craters. During the lunar walk, Commander John W. Young, Command Module Pilot Thomas K. Mattingly II, and Duke collected samples of moon rock and took photographs of the surrounding areas. Below is the photo of Duke beside Plum crater.

A photo of Lunar Module (Orion) pilot Charles Duke, Jr. at the rim of Plum crater.
(Photo : NASA) A photo of Lunar Module (Orion) pilot Charles Duke, Jr. at the rim of Plum crater.

Reason No. 3: Plum Crater And Orion Crater Are Similar
The moon's Plum crater and Mars's Orion crater are nearly identical in dimension, though Orion is a little bit smaller.

"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..." Jim Rice, a team member of Opportunity science, said.

The moon's plum crater is about 40 meters or 131 feet in diameter and about 10 meters or 33 feet deep. It is a little bigger than Orion crater, which is estimated to be 27 meters or 90 feet wide. At this time, Orion's depth is still unknown, but scientists have at least estimated its age to about 10 million years old.

Rice sent the image of Orion crater to Duke who expressed his excitement over the discovery and wished he could also stand beside the Martian crater like he did at the Plum crater.

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