Heading for the hills at last…

Oppy has now well and truly left Santa Maria behind her. She is now under 6km away from Endeavour, having driven 230m away from the crater’s edge since she rolled down its slope and out onto the surrounding flat plain. 

What Oppy can see now is, basically, a lot of flat, hard desert, with a very thin coating of dust on it.  You can tell how thin the dust layer is by how shallow Oppy’s tracks are…

That shows up a lot better in 3D…

Looking around her, Oppy sees this now…

…a very flat plain scattered with a few rocks here and there. And, if anything, the view is going to get even less inspiring and exciting, because as far as I can tell the road ahead has very few rocks of any size for Oppy to sneak a peek at as she advances towards Endeavour. I spent a while carefully examining a HiRISE image of Santa Maria and its surroundings, marking the locations of all the rocks that stood out clearly. Here’s what I got. You’ll have to click on the following image to enlarge it and see the little yellow triangles marking the rocks…

You can see from that that the vast majority of rocks are found close to Santa Maria, and the further south and east Oppy drives the fewer rocks she’ll see. What this means is that we’re in for a long, rather dull drive towards Endeavour, which will only really start to get interesting in the final stages.

But that’s ok. At this stage I’d rather have “dull” than “exciting and full of danger”, wouldn’t you? 🙂

So, where next? Well, there are two areas of that pale bedrock up ahead, one small, one rather larger…

Of course, Oppy might not take that track. We’ll have to wait and see.

In the meantime, let’s look rather farther ahead to when – let’s say when and not if! 🙂 )  Oppy reaches Cape York. We’ve all seen lots of images of Cape York by now, but it’s hard to get a sense of scale from them, isn’t it? So, what I’ve done – and as usual, this is just a bit of fun, I’m not claiming this is 1000% accurate or anything – is make a high resolution mosaic of Cape York and its surroundings, using a HiRISE image, and then superimposed lots of Oppys on it, to the correct scale. So, when you click on this next image, to enlarge it, look for the orange dots. Inside them you’ll spot a little, wedge-shaped pattern of pixels. This is Oppy, shown to the same scale as her surroundings. This, I think… I hope… really brings home how much tosee and do there will be at the rim of Endeavour…

There’s going to be a lot for Oppy to explore there, isn’t there? 🙂

I mentioned earlier how the landscape around Oppy has changed dramatically. This is most obvious in Oppy’s view of the hills of Endeavour on the far horizon. I’m indebted to my fellow UMSFer “FredK” who noticed that when Oppy arrived at Santa Maria the distant hills were really very striking, really sticking up above the horizon, but now Oppy has driven around the other side of the crater, and down its slope onto the flat terrain around it, those hills have almost vanished!

Take a look at this animation (you’ll have to click on it to set it running, I think) showing how Oppy’s view of the northern rim hills has changed…

And the difference is even more striking when you look at how Oppy’s view of the tallest, most imposing hills – the hills on the far eastern side – has changed…

I’m sure the view will improve again dramatically soon, once Oppy drives up out of this little local dip she’s in.

Anyway, that’s for the future. To finish off this post, let’s take another look at what Oppy might be seeing as she heads towards Endeavour crater. Here’s one of my “artist’s impressions”, showing a make-believe view of how Oppy might be seeing sunrise at the moment. I have to give the usual disclaimer – this is offered purely for entertainment and aesthetic purposes only. I’m not claiming it’s accurate because I know it’s not. I’m just making a pretty picture, ok!? Right, now that’s out of the way, here you are…

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One Response to Heading for the hills at last…

  1. Buck says:

    To me, it’s like following along with Borman, Lovell and Anders on their way to the Moon aboard Apollo 8. The spacecraft needs to be watched over, monitored, groomed, tweaked and in general, paid attention to. The voyage there isn’t exactly uncharted but still, the hazards are there, and only vigilance will keep them at bay.

    But the destination, oh, the destination!

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