The tracks of our years…

More images have come back from Oppy, among them a sequence that allows us to complete the “family gallery” of portraits of the line of small craters pointing the way towards Santa Maria. Here, then, is the crater “Yankee Clipper”…

That’s a typical, shallow, Meridiani crater. Not much to look at, and not really worth more than a quick “Hmmm… ok…” before heading for somewhere more interesting. That somewhere is Santa Maria crater, now just 1.5km away, and when we get there the view will be MUCH more dramatic: Santa Maria is much bigger, with its own Victoria Crater-like cliffs and bays, and is surrounded by many large, rover-sized boulders and blocks of ejecta. I can’t wait to see the crater close up, but there’s absolutely no point in trying to predict when Oppy will roll up to the rim because every drive is different, every sol is different, and between here and there is… no-one knows! So, we’ll get there when we get there.

Oppy hasn’t just been crater-gazing tho, she’s been doing some astronomy on Mars, too! She’s been watching a solar eclipse caused by one of Mars’ twin moons! But because the moon in question, Phobos, is so small and so far away from Mars it didn’t block out the Sun, but was silhouetted against it very briefly, so it was more of a transit than an eclipse.

Anyway, here’s a pic of the transit. ( Note: if this image is a bit confusing, the bright blobby smear is the Sun, rather over-exposed. Above it you can see a dimmer but sharper reflection of the Sun. Phobos is the dark notch on the left side of the Sun… )

That’s pretty cool, but even cooler is this animation of the transit, created by one of my fellow UMSF members, Astro0

And here’s another, created by another UMSF member, Hungry4info

UPDATE: Looks like another transit has been recorded, too, on Sol 2415…

02415  17:32:23  pancam_phobos_transit_L78R28

Those images aren’t down yet, but I took the thumbnails from the tracking site and made an animation out of them. It’ll do for now…

Looking forward to seeing the full size images!

Another of the images sent back by Oppy shows the rover’s tracks across the dusty plain. You can see how she approached the crater then made a sharp turn away from it…

… and seeing that made a link in my mind, and inspired me to make one of my “photo montages”.

On the left: fossilised footprints made by a pair of hominids, 3.6 million (yes, million!) years ago at Laetoli in Tanzania. Centre: the bootprints of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left around the lunar module “Eagle” at the Sea of Tranquility in 1969 during the Apollo 11 mission. And on the right: Oppy’s wheel tracks, left on the dusty surface of Mars in Novmber 2010. Just take a moment to think about the gulf of time that spans that trio of images. Take a moment to ponder just how far we’ve come. And ask yourself how far we will have travelled in another hundred years… in a thousand years… in another 3.6 million years…

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8 Responses to The tracks of our years…

  1. Buck says:

    Love the way you tied this together!

  2. Tom says:

    I like your last photo. Nicely done! I just hope we add more human footprints again somewhere, but they won’t be from and American spacecraft….probably Chinese!

  3. Daneel says:

    Absolutely loved that last one.

  4. nafis says:

    hey, a copy of your last image was shown on gizmodo! too bad they didnt link here 😦

  5. inajeep says:

    I love it. I put it on my flickr with a link back. If that is not alright with you, let me know and I’ll remove it sadly.

  6. Pingback: The Unwanted Blog » Blog Archive » The Tracks Of Our Years

  7. Tom Boutell says:

    I sympathize with those who are frustrated that the “footprints” on Mars are not human. But there are good reasons for that.

    Going to the moon meant a radiation exposure, but not a lifespan-altering one. Going to Mars, so far, would likely be a cancer diagnosis in advance. Would that really be an accomplishment?

    At the time of the moon missions it seemed believable that it all might lead to colonization. Now we know how big the gap is between merely getting there and being able to live there (hint: we don’t know how to sustain a self-sufficient ecology under a dome on *this* planet yet).

    We can and should use a remote presence to explore the solar system and beyond and allow that hunger to stand there personally to drive us to develop the technology we need to truly sustain life on other planets – and repair it on this one.

    Thanks for the montage!

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