Over the far horizon – Cape York…

Oppy just keeps driving and driving. Although I thought she might linger at Skylab crater for a couple of days to examine some of the intriguing-looking rocks there she just scooted right on past, and is now heading for the horizon, beyond – and over – which lies her landfall point, Cape York.

Here’s Oppy’s latest position, courtesy of Tesheiner’s excellent .kml file for Google Mars…

Let’s put some numbers to that map…

* Oppy has now driven 2.64km away from Santa Maria

* Oppy has now driven 860m away from the “Mercury Cluster”

* Oppy is now already 300m past Skylab!

Now that’s really pedal-to-the-metal for our brave rover girl! In the “old days” (cue Hovis music) the MER team were happy if Oppy managed to travel 40, 50m. Now drives of 100m are commonplace, and drives of 120m, 140m frequent. Which is, if you think about it, nuts. Opportunity is an amazing, amazing machine, and the men and women who look after her at JPL are amazing, amazing people.

Before we look at what’s ahead for Oppy, let’s just go back to Skylab, because the rocks scattered around it really caught my eye when I processed this 3D image of them (as usual, click on it to enlarge it, then please, spend a few minutes just roaming and scrolling around it, ok?)…

Now, a couple of rocks really jumped out at me on that picture. This one looks unlike the others around it…

And this rock is just bizarre… it looks like a piece of twisted, torn shrapnel, doesn’t it?

But we won’t be getting a closer look at those, because we’re already waaaaay past them, so what’s up ahead for Oppy?

Well, here’s the route ahead…

Oppy’s next target is a crater called “Young Blocky”, and that’s 520m plus ahead. (To YB’s north is an interesting feature I’ve labelled, with amazing originality, ‘interesting feature’. It looks like the eroded remains of a large crater, but I doubt Oppy will divert north to look at it, it’s a bit off the track to Cape York, but hey, you never know, and my crystal ball hasn’t exactly been reliable recently has it!). Beyond “Young Blocky” is another cluster of craters, and beyond that one small crater after another – represented by yellow pins on the chart – leading towards Cape York…

From where we are now, Cape York is now significantly less than 4km away, and it’s in this direction…

So, looking at that image, we’re looking at Cape York, in a way. It’s there, just over the horizon. If we could fly to Cape York and look back, here’s the remainder of Oppy’s trek…

Isn’t that something? We’re so close now, so close… but, as I keep reminding people, Oppy could fail any day… any moment… so let’s not take it for granted that she’ll reach Cape York and taste those fascinating phyllosilicates..!

More pictures due soon, check back for them, ok?

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