Welcome…

… to the “The Road To Endeavour”, a blog dedicated to following the ongoing mission of the Mars Exploration Rover ‘Opportunity’ as she explores the rim of the giant martian crater ‘Endeavour’!

Opportunity – or “Oppy” as many rover enthusiasts call her – landed on Mars eight years ago, and it was hoped at the time that she’d last maybe 90 days and drive up to a kilometre across the surface of Mars. Eight years later, having survived dust storms, mechanical problems and everything Mars can throw at her, Oppy is still working, and after driving to and studying several smaller craters further north, near her original landing site, she’s now studying a huge crater called “Endeavour”, analysing the rocks and dust there, trying to figure out if that part of Mars was once wetter, and warmer, and maybe even a possible habitat for life. Every day she takes, and sends back to Earth, photographs of the martian landscape, and this is where you’ll find them – original images and many I create myself, by stitching together raw images, colourising them or turning pairs of them into 3D “anaglyphs” which can give you the impresion of being *on* Mars…

This is actually a blog I wasn’t planning to write. I was planning on starting up a blog dedicated to the Mars Science Laboratory – NASA’s next mission to Mars – but when it was announced back in December 2008 the launch of MSL (the “Mars Science Laboratory”, or “Curiosity” to give her her proper name) had been put back from 2009 to 2011, so this is Plan B: a blog that I hoped would turn into a kind of travelogue, first following Opportunity’s long, loooong drive south to Endeavour crate and then chronicling her adventures once she got there – IF she got there…

Well, she not only got there, but since getting there she’s done some amazing science – and the best may yet be to come…

So, here’s the place to come for images of Endeavour Crater, as seen by Mars Reconaissance Orbiter and other probes, and by Oppy herself. It’s not meant to be serious, or particularly scientific, just a place to come for some interesting pictures and news updates, really. I hope you like what you find here, and keep checking for new images. 🙂

Stuart Atkinson

@mars-stu on Twitter

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Stay on target…

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Well, Opportunity still hasn’t started to explore Perseverance Valley yet… it seems she’s taking another good long look at it before setting off. And that’s ok, she deserves a rest, and it makes perfect sense to make a detailed study of the gully and plan the next few moves before starting into it.

I’m looking forward to seeing the valley from closer up, tho. The views we have at the moment are quite… yes, I’ll say it… dull. We’re seeing it at a very oblique angle, which means we can’t see the channels and ridges of the feature. When Opportunity gets a bit closer we will, tho, I’m sure. In the meantime, here a few of my recent processed images…

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By way of contrast (and yes, to fill out this post!) here are a couple of processed images from Curiosity, which is currently taking a look at some VERY thin fragile-looking rock structures… as usual, click to enlarge…

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Get in there, Oppy…!

It seems my previous post was a bit premature and Opportunity *hasn’t* started down into Perseverance Valley yet, but is lingering at the top of the slope, taking a look at the valley before heading down into it…

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A load of images came back today showing the view down-slope, but none of the software packages or websites I use could stitch them into a decent image. Instead I had to paste them manually into a single long image, which turned out hideously, but here you go… you have been warned…

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But it does show that Opportunity has drive to the edge of a very small ledge to the upper left of the valley, so she can take a proper look at it and work out how to get to it safely…

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So where has Oppy decided to take a breather at? Approximately… here…

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Original image: Sean Doran, used with permission

 

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Perseverance Valley beckons…

Looking at her wheel tracks on the latest images I think… I *think*… Opportunity has turned towards the entrance to Perseverance Valley and is starting to move towards it or even into it…

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If that’s the case then Opportunity has begin an exciting new stage of her already-amazing adventure on Mars!

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So… Opportunity is going into the valley… seems appropriate to play this piece of classical music to mark the occasion… After all these years I still can’t make out a single word he’s saying, as he jigs about, arms flailing, like a drunk bank clerk at the branch Chrustmas Party, but it’s a BRILLIANT song…

 

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On the edge…

Opportunity has reached the entrance to Perseverance Valley, and like any good explorer about to start a new adventure is now taking a good look around her, and looking down into the valley itself, before starting on the next leg of her journey.

As I suspected, the view down into the valley from its entrance is less than dramatic – no steep walls, no debris-littered floor, no meandering channels, but quite a few dust dunes which Oppy will have to be careful driving through or around. I’m sure the scenery will get more impressive as Opportunity works her way down the gully.

Here are some views I processed over the past few days…

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Here’s one of my favourite views for a long time – the ramp-like landscape feature they’ve called “Winnemucca”…

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So, where is Opportunity now? About… here… I think…

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… but that’s just me guessing, don’t bet your house on it 🙂

When will Oppy start to drive down into the Valley? Don’t think it will be long, so check back soon…

 

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Into the valley… soon…

The latest images to come back from Mars show that Opportunity is now *this* close… **THIS** close to the entrance to Perseverance Valley, and surely it’s only going to be another couple of sols before she rolls up to the lip of the ridge, looks over it and gives us our first view of the ancient, possibly water-carved gully which will be her next science target…

Here’s a mosaic  made from images which came back yesterday… You can see how Oppy has rolled up almost to the entrance of the Valley…

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So just where is Oppy now? Well, the yellow line I’ve added to this gorgeous, computer rendered view, made by image processing wizard Sean Doran, shows (roughly) where Opportunity is now, having driven up out of Marathon Valley and trundled along the top of Cape Tribulation to get here (right to left)…

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There are some very interesting sights around Opportunity as she prepares to drive down into Perseverance…

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And just this morning some… interesting images came back from Opportunity, images like this…

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Oh boy, the tin foil hat brigade are going to have a field day with those… I can just imagine the rantings and ravings on their forums and blogs… “Mars rover spots UFO!” “Mars rover spots flaming comet heading straight for Earth!” The truth is there if they care to look for it, on the fantastic Midnight Planets website, which posts images returned by Opportunity…

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I’m taking that image footer to mean that Opportunity was attempting to image the martian moon, Phobos, across the Sun. Nothing to get Muldur excited… 🙂

Check back soon for more images from Opportunity!

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An epic drive…

Opportunity has just completed one of her longest ever drives on Mars (I’m not sure what her longest was, I’ll have to check). She just completed a drive on Mars that was an amazing 132m long.

Now, that’s not a great distance for us. It’s literally a couple of minutes’ walk up the street, or to the park across the road. But for a 13 year old solar-powered rover, which was only meant to last for 90 days and travel up to a kilometre, on a planet that states “Killing machines sent from Earth” as its main hobby, it’s a great achievement, believe me.

Here’s Oppy’s ost recent view as she heads towards Perseverance Valley…

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She has also been using her RAT – or “Rock Abrasion Tool” – to clean off the surface of one of the rocks around her, to enable more detailed study of it. Here’s what she’s done…

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…and here’s a close-up of the RATted area…

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More later, I have to go to work!

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Opportunity’s view…

Opportunity is doing what any explorer and adventurer worth her salt would do – stopping, having a break, taking a good look around her, taking in the landscape, before continuing on to her main destination. Here are a couple of views I’ve made from the most recent images to come back…

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That’s a view of the “fresh” impact crater Opportunity spotted from the top of the hill and is now quite close to. Note: ignore the colour, it’s rubbish, I know. Just the best I could do quickly with the filter set that came down!

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A view back up the slope Opportunity has descended as she heads towards Perseverance Valley.

I don’t expect much to happen over the coming Easter weekend – I’ll be “away from keyboard” anyway (Google “AFK” younger readers!) – but I do expect we’ll see some images of the ancient gully itself next week, so check back then ok?

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