Oppy on The Flats…

Over the past couple of days Oppy has reached a major milestone in her epic trek across the great desert of Meridiani. She has now, finally, left the very rippled driving terrain behind and has rolled onto a much flatter area, which will mean, we’re all hoping, that she will be able to make longer drives each sol as she heads towards Endeavour crater. Endeavour is now just 8km or so away, which is still a looooooong way away of course, but there aren’t many rover enthusiasts or back seat drivers who aren’t now quietly confident that she won’t reach Endeavour.

Ok, so let’s look at what’s been happening, because really it’s hard to overstate just how important a change this is for Oppy and the MER mission.

Here’s Oppy’s latest position, at the end of her Sol 2405 (a “sol” is a martain day, remember, so “Sol 2405” was Oppy’s 2,405th day on Mars… not bad for a rover everyone hoped would last 90 days!)…

Ahead of Oppy you can see a crater nicknamed “Waypoint Crater” (just for ease, it hasn’t got a proper name yet, but certainly will have one shortly), Santa Maria and Endeavour ahead of her. Between Oppy’s ‘current’ (obviously she’ll have moved since these images were made, but they’ve the latest I have) position and “Waypoint” are several smaller craters. How far apart is everything now? Let’s see…

(Corrected – thanks Tesh! 🙂 )

And what about the view from the ground? Well, this is what Oppy is seeing at the moment…

As you can see the ground is a lot flatter and barer now, with just a few elongated dark smudges and smears visible. But each of those smudges and smears is one of those craters up ahead of Oppy which are visible on the previous image, and one of UMSF’s most accomplished navigators, fredk, has managed to identify which is which, by vertically stretching the panoramic view and then lining everything up. Thanks to fredk for letting me use his images here so you can see the terrain up ahead for yourself! 

So, as you can see from fredk’s images Oppy can now see a looooong way off into the distance. One thing she can’t see yet is “Cape York”, the raised rocky area she is due to make ‘landfall’ on when she eventually reaches Endeavour’s rim. That’s probably because it’s in a dip in the land, and hidden from view right now. But it’s exciting that we can finally see “Santa Maria”, even if it is only just a vague smearyblurrysmudge in the distance… 🙂

But the most exciting thing about Oppy’s recent driving is just how the ground beneath her spiky wheels has changed. I’ve made a sequence of images taken at different times which shows just how much the ground beneath Oppy’s wheels has changed as she’s been driving across Meridiani. You’ll have to click on the next image to enlarge it to see the differences properly…

Wow, look at that… the ripples have just about vanished! Oppy is now going to be driving – for a while at least – across a really, really flat area. The flatness of this area is really shown in a 3D image, so here’s a treat for you – again, you’ll need to click on the image to enlarge it enough to see it properly…

I think that’s a quite stunning transition, don’t you? No more slogging through dust dunes for our brave gal now, she’s going to enjoy some “easy driving” for a while! Obviously it’s not a time to become complacent tho, Oppy is so old, and has been on Mars for so long, that she is never more than a minute away from Something Going Wrong, but for now let’s just enjoy the drive! 🙂

And finally, just how big IS Santa Maria? This final pic will show you (Santa Maria’s the one on the left, of course!)…

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6 Responses to Oppy on The Flats…

  1. wowbagger says:

    I can’t believe I’ve only just discovered this cool blog! 🙂 It’s already bookmarked, and I will be following developments with baited breath. I (like some other visitors) have been following the press releases and updates on the JPL site, which can sometimes be a little sporadic. It’s great to have a more detailed view! Keep on truckin’!

  2. Tom says:

    Run Oppy RUN!!!

    I really like that vertical stretched image. That has a very sci-fi look to Mars that we all secretly hope to see. 🙂

  3. Dave R says:

    “there aren’t many rover enthusiasts or back seat drivers who aren’t now quietly confident that she won’t reach Endeavour.”

    My brain hurts after trying to parse that triple negative, but if you meant to say that most think she will make it, I think you’ve said the opposite of what you meant. Either way it could do with clarificating.

    • phoenixpics says:

      Yeah, that sentence did kinda get away from me… 😉 I’ll correct it, thanks.

      (“Clarificating”? Is that really a word? 😉 )

  4. Mike says:

    Thanks for the story.
    Every paired appendage is crossed for Oppy long haul. 🙂


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