Setting sail across a sea scattered with stones…

For the past few days the “image pipeline” which carries raw images from Oppy to the various websites which publishes them – Exploratorium, JPL’s own MER page, etc – has been blocked, and nothing new has been available since March 23rd, apart from some very small “thumbnail” images like the ones I showed in a previous post. Not a big deal, these things happen, and we must never forget how spoiled rotten we are nowadays compared to the Olde Days! Last night the blockage finally shifted, and images came pouring out of the pipeline in a great rushing flood…

So, here we go with a round-up of what Oppy has been seeing since she rolled away from Santa Maria…!

First, here’s what Santa Maria looked like as Oppy trundled away…

…and let’s see how that looks in 3D…

That’s just a narrow part of the wider angle view, which shows clearly how Santa Maria rises above the local terrain…

Having driven away from Santa Maria, Oppy then went rock-hunting! She left the crater heading almost due east, then turned sharply to the south to go and scoot over to a big, dark rock called “Bagua”…

At first, this new “island” didn’t look that impressive, just a big… well… rock… sitting there in the open desert, close to a shallow crater, but as Oppy drew nearer it began to look a lot more interesting…

Now, that’s a BIG rock… tall enough to actually touch Oppy’s solar panel wings… and the closer Oppy drove to it the more impressive it appeared…

There’s some fascinating detail and structure visible on that rock, isn’t there? And what a story that rock has to tell… You don’t need to be a planetary scientist to know that it doesn’t belong here, it didn’t form here, it belongs, and formed, elsewhere, perhaps somewhere a long way away from Santa Maria. It dropped out of the sky here – but from how far away? If you take a look at it in 3D it really comes to life…

And here’s one of my unashamedly more artistic renders…

Wow… I bet that rock could tell us a lot if we gave it a really good scientific going over with all Oppy’s instruments, but that’s not going to happen; Endeavour is now so close – “just” 6km away – that Oppy will not be making many stops before she gets there, there’s just too much at stake now. Oh, she might stop if she spots an alien juggling dinosaur bones and playing a trumpet but not much else… 😉 So, there’ll be a quick drive-around of this rock and then I am sure Oppy will be on her way again.

When she gets going (she may have gotten going already, with the time delay between images being taken and being put up on the internet, we’re always playing catch-up, reading yesterday’s newspaper from Mars, as it were) she’ll set out across the Meridiani desert and head for the hills of Endeavour. The terrain between Santa Maria and Endeavour is very flat, and very featureless. Imagine a shopping centre car park scattered with stones and boulders, and you get the idea. If that’s not working for you, well, this next image gives a pretty good impression of what Oppy’s view will be for the next few months, until she reaches Cape York…

Trust me, all those people who say they find meteorites and rocks boring, who want Oppy to scoot right past each and every one of them, are going to be DESPERATE to see SOMETHING lying on the ground up ahead after a few weeks of slogging across that desert! 🙂

So, there you are… Opp has left Santa Maria, but she’s still lingering a bit isn’t she? It’s as if she really doesn’t want to leave this crater! I can understand that, and the rocky beauty of Santa Maria inspired another of my “astro-poems” which my good friend Glen has brought to life by turning it into another of his fantastic ‘poemsters”. You’ll need to click on it to enlarge it enough to be able to read it…

Thanks, Glen! 🙂

What’s next? Oppy will – if she can drag herself away!! – head south, and east, leaving Santa Maria behind once and for all, and start towards Endeavour. I hope you’ll follow her continuing journey here, on “Road to Endeavour”.

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