Going nowhere for a while…

Sorry for the lack of updates recently. A combination of being kept busy trying to watch and photograph the current conjunction and ‘fly-by’ of Jupiter, Venus and the Moon in the evening sky (take a look at my ‘Cumbrian Sky’ blog if you’re not aware of what’s going on in the western sky after sunset at the moment) and a general lack of anything newsworthy from Oppy was behind it. But time for an update now.

First of all… remember what I said in my previous post about Oppy being here for a few more weeks? Yeah. Forget that. We’re going to be here a while. Quite a while. After I wrote that post Doug Ellison sent me a message telling me that Oppy’s departure wasn’t going to be anywhere near that soon because of her power levels, which was disappointing in a way – Oppy’s a rover, she’s meant to rove! – but Oppy’s health has to come first, she’s a priceless asset, and she won’t move until the amazing men and women behind her think she’s ready to. Wanting to get some clarification on this, I emailed Steve Squyres a few questions, and, as ever, he was happy to contribute a few words to this blog…

By now many thousands of people all around the world have swooned over that image of Opportunity’s own shadow cast on the floor of Endeavour Crater, but the other striking thing about that picture is the state of Opportunity herself – she looks filthy! Just how bad is the power situation at the moment? How is it affecting science operations at Greeley?

The power situation is very constraining, but it’s not dangerous. We’ve easily got enough power for survival, and enough to do science at a slow but steady rate. For now we’re trying to concentrate on the key elements of the winter campaign, particularly the radio science work.

Can you give us some idea of the plans and schedule for driving away from this winter haven? I gather we may be here for another few months – unless a friendly neighhbourhood cleaning event gives oppy a good brush?

Yeah, we’ll be here for another few months unless we get lucky with the wind. 

And then? Head north to check-out the tip of Cape York, or backtrack and look for some more gypsum veins? Or is Solander Point and the hills of Tribulation calling from the south?

Basically south, I think. We want more gypsum veins, and we’d like to find a contact between the kind of rock we saw at Chester Lake and the kind of rock we saw at Tisdale. And then, of course, there’s always the hunt for clays. But I don’t think we’ll want to prolong our stay at Cape York too much… we’ve already accomplished a lot here, and there’s good stuff farther to the south. We’ll see…

So, there you have it. Oppy is going to hang around at Greeley for another few months, and then head south. Looks like we won;t be driving down to look at that wedge cut out of the NE edge of Cape York, which I really wanted to see, but I can’t wait to get a closer look at those slopes of Solander Point and the Tribulation Hills. And if Oppy starts to climb up those hills, just imagine the view we’ll have of Endeavour…!

Anyway, that’s in the future. Oppy’s going nowhere for now. So, let’s take a quick look at some of the views she’s been enjoying. Here are some colour views I’ve made from black and white images taken recently…

This next image shows an area called “Marble Bar”…

…and this area has been christened “North Pole” (really pleased with how this one turned out, so please click on it to enlarge it and see it in all its wind-blown dust rippled glory… thanks!)…

Finally for this time, a 3D view of Oppy’s current “workspace”…

That’s all for now, but keep checking back, I hope to have some more pictures for you soon.

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4 Responses to Going nowhere for a while…

  1. Buck says:

    It sounds funny to say it, but ‘North Pole’ looks very alien.

    Thanks for the Squyres info; it’s so cool to hear from him!

    • phoenixpics says:

      It is, isn’t it? It always amazes me when people at NASA like Steve take the time to write back when I ask some questions, but they really are genuinely happy to do it and appreciate the interest in, and support for, their missions and their work.

  2. poverello says:

    I’m with Buck…Steve Squyres’ take on what’s happening next is really interesting. And I think I speak for all of us RTE readers who are grateful for your tenacity in following Oppy’s adventures on Mars. Thanks, Stu.

    • phoenixpics says:

      Thanks, I really appreciate that. I don’t think there are that many blogs or websites still covering the MER mission in much detail, but I’m going to keep writing RtE until Oppy roves no more.

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