So. Here we are.
Some more images came back from Oppy yesterday that allowed me to fit the final pieces of my long puzzle into place, and I spent the early hours of this morning – it kept me awake while I waited to see if a big auroral display would kick off…it didn’t… – stitching together more than a dozen different frames into a single, wide, sweeping, Big Country mosaic showing the eastern side of Endeavour Crater on the far horizon, framed by the dropping northern slopes of Cape York to the north and the summit of Cape York to the south.
It’s not very professional, I know. Others will do a lot better with the raw material – they’ll remove the dark banding between frames, blend everything in together more smoothly, flatten the horizon, enhance it to bright out subtle details and features my image doesn’t show. Some will add colour, creating a breathtakingly beautiful panorama worthy of being published in astronomy magazines and books for years to come. I’m sure there are people at NASA working away on these images right now, preparing an “official image” in real colour for a big press release, and I can’t wait to see that, and all the other pictures people will make, too, but honestly I don’t care that mine is amateurish and crude in comparison. I’m an enthusiast, as simple as that, and this has been a genuine, simple labour of love for me; I just wanted to try and get a feel for what it would be like to see Endeavour crater for real, as Oppy is seeing it. And I’m very, very pleased with how this has turned out.
So, when you see the image below, and click on it to enlarge it (you won’t see much otherwise!) I hope you’ll appreciate it for what it is, and what it shows. This is the very view you would have if you were standing beside Oppy right now; this is the very view people – tourists, sightseers, pilgrims, historians, adventurers, native born martian children on school trips, honeymooning couples, the great great great grandchildren of MER team members, archaeologists – will one day enjoy after they have made the long, long trek south from Victoria Crater, across Meridiani’s great dust desert, after they have stepped up onto Cape York at Spirit Point, and after they have walked uphill past the gaping geological wound of Odyssey Crater, past the slab-topped Tisdale 2, past all those boulders and stones on the Shoemaker Ridge, past the historic, fenced-off remains of Homestake…
So, dear reader, stand with me now beside Opportunity. Rest a gloved hand on her back – maybe wiping some dust off, gently, she could definitely do with a clean – and stare out with us across Endeavour Crater. Sweep your gaze from north to south, taking in one range of hills after another, seeing how the great crater’s floor first dips and then rises into a great low mound of dark dust before falling away again at the foot of the Tribulation range. Marvel at the sight of those craters blasted out of the slopes opposite, imagining what it would have been like to stand here and watch those impacts as they happened, to have felt the ground beneath your feet shudder and shake and convulse with the force of the meteorite impacts just 25km away. Imagine standing here, watching mushroom clouds of dust and debris rising slowly into the martian skym, casting shadows across Endeavour, then clearing to reveal new landmarks in the hills on the other side. Imagine seeing Earth shining above those distant hills, as blue as a sequin or sapphire, as beautiful as Venus appears back on Earth. Imagine seeing a bright comet above those hills, its tail arching gracefully over them, airbrushed across the delicate blue-pink sky.
Imagine standing here and watching Oppy approaching you, rolling slowly but surely up Cape York towards the Saddleback Ridge, a robot coated in orange dust, her old, tired gears whirring as soft as a whisper in the thin air…
Imagine standing here alone, on the top of a hill on Mars, with a shrunken, golden Sun shining bright above you in a caramel- and honey-hued sky, ancient rust-red rocks all around you, staring out across the crater’s floor, shaking your head inside your helmet at the breathtaking beauty of the sight…
That’s my Mars, the Mars I fell in love with as a child, the Mars that I see in my mind when I look at that orange-red ‘star’ shining above the ruins of Kendal Castle on a clear night, the Mars that I see when I look into the eyepiece of my telescope and see a tiny orange orb shimmering there, with a white dot at its pole and the hint of dark markings and shadings on its face.
I hope you like it.