Full steam ahead…

Now, I don’t have a crystall ball, and Mars loves nothing more than biting the over-confident and over-optimistic backseat rover driver hard on the bum, but I feel fairly confident when I say that, barring some accident or mechanical failure, it’s looking pretty good for Oppy to reach Cape York, on the edge of Endeavour crater, sometime in the summer. She’s now fairly thundering across the Meridiani desert, clocking up drives of 100m, 120m, even 140m. There’s nothing remarkable ahead of us… that we know of… and no good reason to stop for very long at any point on the long road ahead, so I think it’s going to be a case of drive, drive, drive.

After crossing a very flat, very barren, featureless stretch of the desert plain, Oppy has just been driving across a more interesting, narrow swathe of that light-coloured, broken-up-into plates bedrock, one of the “Lilly pads” the rover drivers like so much…

Here’s Oppy’s most recent view…

That looks pretty flat and featureless, but when you look at it in 3D you can see that actually this terrain is very hummocky, with dips, troughs, mounds and fractures scattered across it. Click on the next image, to bring up a full size version, and you’ll see what I mean…

Oppy’s front hazcam gives us a much clearer, closer view of this interesting place…

Oppy’s view of the horizon is now pretty intriguing. The near rim of Endeavour is really looking big and close now, as you can see from this next image…

The far rim of the crater can’t be seen quite so clearly, and the hills over on that far side look a lot lighter and less detailed. If you look at this next image you can clearly see the difference…

So, a good guide to use when looking at the horizon on these photos: dark hills are the closest, features on “this” side of the crater, while the lighter hills are the furthest away, features on the “other” side of the crater… 🙂

Oppy has now driven – as the crow flies – almost 900m away from Santa Maria, and is now just over 5km away from Cape York, the small ‘island’ of rock poking up out of the plain that will be her ‘landfall’ when she reaches the rim of Endeavour crater. When will that be? Well, it’s easy to break up the remaining distance between Oppy and Cape York into convenient 120m sections, and count how many of them there are and turn that into a “number of days” figure. If you do that you get something like 43 days! But that’s ridiculous. Oppy can’t, and won’t, keep up that pace. She’ll have to stop for rests sometimes; she’ll make some science stops; engineering issues will creep up and need attention. So, when will Oppy reach Endeavour?

Oh, that’s easy.

WHEN SHE GETS THERE!!!

It’s interesting to look at just how much Oppy’s surroundings have changed. Go back in time to Sol  2205 and she was driving across this landscape…

…she then drove across this terrain after leaving Santa Maria…

..and now she’s driving across bedrock, as shown on a picture above. When she’s cleared the bedrock, what next? Well, there’s a half km stretch of Nothing to cross before Oppy reaches the next patch of bedrock, and 400m after that there’s a small crater which the team might decide to stop and have a look at, if only to give Oppy a well-deserved rest…

…but we’ll have to wait and see. Who knows what Oppy might spot on the road ahead?

Full steam ahead, Oppy. Full steam ahead! 🙂

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