Every rover’s doing a brand new dance now…

… so come on Oppy, do the Maxwell Motion…! 🙂

“What’s he on about?!” I hear you ask. Well, in a previous post ( https://roadtoendeavour.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/pedal-to-the-metal ) I explained how Mars rover driver Scott Maxwell had come up with an ingenious way of squeezing more driving out of Opportunity, potentially shortening the length of her trek to Endeavour crater. I’m not going to go through it again here, you’ll have to go back and take a look, but it’s more cunning than a room full of foxes planning a bank robbery…

Oppy has now tried the new “Maxwell Motion” drive technique, and it appears to have worked! Not as much as Scott had hoped… not yet, not this time… but Oppy did gain some distance, and for a first try that’s brilliant news! Images taken by Oppy of her own tracks clearly show the difference between “normal” driving and “enhanced” driving. Look at the two different modes – you won’t need me to tell you which is which! 😉

So, what did Scott, the architect of this new technique, think of how the drive had gone? He Tweeted:

Drive-extension results: not great, but good. Partway through, Oppy couldn’t prove path was safe, so she stopped early. Still, 10% increase!

This is actually quite a good outcome for the first real try: we got a speedup, yet still saw that the no-path case works as expected.

Today, we’ll try again, but route looks ugly — even likelier to stop early. That’ll probably be how it is: some days great, some nothing.


No doubt in the days, weeks and months ahead the technique will be tried again, and gradually refined, helping to scoot Oppy along the Road to Endeavour a little faster.

So why didn’t Oppy drive even further this time? Before I had time to ask Scott myself, he Tweeted the answer to that question to someone else:

Limited to ~ 70m in this terrain. Limiter is optics: at 70m, rover-killing hazards are ~ 3-4 pixels & can hide behind ripples.

In flatter terrain, we can drive farther — can pick out 3-4-pixel hazards there. Have done 140m blind, on Victoria annulus.

So, that was a really good first attempt I’d say! Congratulations to Scott, and the whole rover team, for a great drive!

If you look at that picture you’ll see the distinctive marks in the tracks caused by the new technique. Doug Ellison, founder of UMSF, commented that they looked like footprints, and that in coming up with the new driving technique Scott had, effectively, put his own footprints on Mars… Wow… when you think about it, he has done exactly that; he’s literally “left his mark” on Mars! When this section of Oppy’s drive is photographed by the HiRISE camera onboard MRO I’m sure those slew scuffs will show up on the picture, and it will look like Scott has left a kind of ‘signature’ on Mars, that will remain there until dust covers the tracks and fills in the troughs left by Oppy’s wheels. And that’s no more than he deserves, which is why I sent him this…

So… where is Oppy now? Here’s the latest ground track…

Looks like Oppy has turned south, probably so she can avoid crossing over some very ripply-looking terrain…

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