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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Vera Rubin Ridge

While we wait for more images to come back from Opportunity, I thought you might like to see a panoramic mosaic I’ve processed out of around 50 images sent back by the Mars Science Laboratory, Curiosity. This is a view of Vera Rubin Ridge. I hope you’ll click on it to enlarge it then just pan around it, exploring…

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Looking around…

Now out of her solar conjunction radio silence, Opportunity is sending back some really nice views of the interior of Endeavour crater, as she starts to edge her way down Perseverance Valley. Unfortunately, most of these simply refuse to stitch together to make the nice panoramic views I like sharing with you here, but I’ve done my best with a few new images, just to catch up with our rover’s progress really…

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Ok, just to be TOTALLY clear here, that last image, above, is colourised and processed in a purely artistic way; I’m not suggesting for a second that you would see anything like that with your own eyes if you were there. It’s just an unashamed pretty picture, nothing scientifically useful or accurate about it.

More soon… 🙂

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Mars calling Earth… Mars calling Earth…

Images have started to come back from Opportunity (and Curiosity) again, so it seems that the latest “solar conjunction” is over and the phone lines between Earth and Mars are open again. For the past couple of weeks the Sun has been between the two planets, making communication between them very difficult, so there has been very little to report or show here. But now the websites which post the images returned from Mars are displaying lots of new pictures, so it seems all is well, and surely it won’t be long now until Oppy is rolling down Perseverance Valley.

I’m busy playing catch-up now, downloading new images and processing them. Here are my latest images which  hope you’ll enjoy…

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I really am pleased with that last image. I’ve removed some of the distortion of the view, rotated it a little to flatten the horizon and show that Opportunity is on a slope, and added some colour to make it a little more martian, but PLEASE note I’m not suggesting for a moment that it’s supposed to be real colour; it’s more of an “artistic take” on the raw image Opportunity sent back.

Check back soon for more news and images from Opportunity. 🙂

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Time to rest…

Opportunity is spending solar conjunction having a well-deserved rest from roving, and is spending her time just looking around and taking in the view from the top of Perseverance Valley. So, not much to report but a few new pictures to share with you, in no particular order…

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Taking it easy…

Opportunity isn’t going anywhere for a while, not with solar conjunction just around the corner, so she’s taking it easy, just hanging out on Mars, as you do, taking lots of photos, as you would…

Quick catch-up of the most recent pictures I’ve created from the raw images sent back by Oppy…

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While I was making that second image there I was struck by the difference in scale between images sent back by two different space missions on the same day. As Oppy was sending back those images of tiny pieces of grit and stone on the surface of Mars, as seen through its microscope camera, the JUNO mission was sending back its long-awaited images of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, a storm which is bigger than our whole planet…

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As I’ve said many times, one of the great things about being “into” space and this stuff is that it gives you perspective…

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Welcome to Perseverance Valley…

So. Here we are.

Having landed in Eagle Crater in January 2004, in a cosmic “hole in one”… having then driven to and into the beautiful Victoria Crater… having then trekked across the vast dune sea of Meridiani Planum, passing many ancient meteorites along the way… having then triumphantly rolled up onto Cape York and then climbed the rim of Endeavour Crater, Opportunity is now starting a new adventure and beginning to explore Perseverance Valley, an ancient gully-like feature which meanders down the inner slope of Endeavour Crater.

When I got up and went online this morning at ridiculous o’clock as usual I was delighted to see new images had come down from Opportunity overnight, and I was able to stitch them together into an image that shows (I think) our first really clear view of Perseverance Valley. Opportunity is gazing downslope towards the crater floor far below, so, taking in the view during “solar conjunction” before moving on in early August.

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This second image is the first one stretched vertically to bring out the structure of the valley…

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You can see from the images that this is not a *gorge*. The sides of the gully are not really very steep, so when Opportunity gets down there it won’t be like she’s working her way down a toboggan run! I don’t think the topography of the valley is going to be very dramatic in terms of vertical relief. I think the beauty is going to be in the curves of the feature, following its “flow” as it meanders down to the crater floor.

Looking forward to getting going, but can’t begrudge Opportunity a rest. 🙂

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Mars goes to sleep…

Well, not literally. I don’t mean the planet itself is going to nod off – but the rovers trundling around on it are certainly about to grab a coffee, put their feet up and take it easy for a while. Why? This NASA webpage explains

In the meantime, Opportunity has, as I reported in the most recent post, entered Perseverance Valley and started exploring it. And like any self-respecting tourist and sight-seer she has taken a “selfie”. Here’s a colourisation I made from a raw black and white image Oppy sent back yesterday…

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Looking at the bigger picture, it’s very pleasing to report that a couple of the craters close to the entrance to Perseverance Valley have been named after the spacecraft which took astronauts to the Moon on the Apollo 16 mission…

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More soon!

 

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