Closer… closer…

Oppy is now less than 300m away from “Approach Crater”, and her long-anticipated first views of both Cape York and the lower reaches of the hills on the far, eastern side of Endeavour Crater…

See that yellow brick road line across Oppy’s path? That’s It, that’s (probably!) the magical boundary between Oppy’s past and Oppy’s future. Once we cross that line we’ll be seeing things we could barely bring ourselves to dream about a year ago. And every precious metre Oppy travels beyond that, the view will get a little better still… :-)

After we pass that crater, I think that Oppy will dip down again, briefly, before making her final topographical climb to a point (marked by the purple camera on the next image) where the only way is down, and then, oh, then we’ll be looking down on Cape York and out across the vast floor of Endeavour…

What will we actually see then? Well, the horizon should both open uip horizontally, and drop down vertically too, revealing a great vista of crater-spattered mountains and hills on the farside of Endeavour. We may also see some detail on the crater floor itself – there are vast fields of dark dust dunes in the southern end of Endeavour, we may see those. Looking forward to that!

But personally, I’m looking forward, most of all, to the view of the hills directly opposite, and the enormous crater that’s blasted out of them. That crater has been a beacon, a siren, for years now, a landmark on – then above…then below… then above again – the far horizon that’s called to us, drawn Oppy onwards, onwards. When we drive into Botany Bay and the vista opens up before us, that crater will be striking, I’m absolutely sure of that. At that moment, we’ll be as close to that crater as we’re ever going to get. There’s no chance of Oppy ever reaching those hills… (is there…? hehe…!) but as Oppy explores Cape York and the western side of Endeavour that crater will be looking over her shoulder, every minute of every hour of every sol, staring at her from 20km+ away…

I’m puzzled why it hasn’t been given a name yet, as it’s been obvious for so long. I mean, I can’t be the only person who’s realised its significance and aesthetic appeal? Look at it, just LOOK at it… it’s a great empty gaping eyesocket gouged out of the eastern hills… it’ll be staring at her, and at us, like the Eye of Sauron for the rest of the mission… it deserves a name… :-)

But what to call it? Well, the MER tradition is to name craters visited – or seen? Hmm. Not sure about that, I’ll have to check… - by the rovers after ships of exploration, so that puts some limits on what it might be christened. Two names immediately spring to mind for me, I’ll be honest. Firstly, I would dearly love to see a crater named “Enterprise” on Mars, for obvious, whooshing-warp-drivey reasons. But that’s not going to happen, NASA would never allow it, I’m sure.

So why not call it “Atlantis”, to honour the last space shuttle orbiter to fly at the end of the shuttle program? That would be very fitting I think.

(And if you’re a younger reader, wondering why the crater might be named after a ship from either a sci-fi series or the space program, both Starfleet’s pride and joy, the USS Enterprise, and shuttle Atlantis were named after famous ships of ocean exploration).

Anyway, that’s for the future, I guess. To close with this time, I’m wondering if the view from the high rim of Endeavour might look something like this…

It won’t be long until we see the real thing… :-)

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One Response to Closer… closer…

  1. Thomas says:

    Well, we _could_ call it “Eye of Sauron” :-)

    I share you excitement about being so close to see the full panorama of the crater edge – it will be literally a scene like none ever seen by human eyes.

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