Making plans…

The month has just turned, so that means it’s time to read the latest MER Update by AJS Rayl, over at the Planetary Society. This month’s update is one of the most comprehensive EVER, with masses of information about what Oppy has been doing whilst parked up at Greeley Haven, and, perhaps more importantly, the inside info on what she will be doing, and where she might be going, after she drives away from Greeley Haven, sometime in June. (Yes, I said June… we’ll be another couple of months yet at Greeley Haven… stop sighing at the back there, she’ll move when she’s ready!)…

You can read the latest update here:

http://www.planetary.org/news/2012/0331_Mars_Exploration_Rover_Update.html

As I said, AJS Rayl’s latest update gives us our first solid info about what lies in store for Oppy when she finally drives off this rocky crest and resumes her roving:

With Opportunity’s fifth Martian winter soon to be in the rear-view mirror, the team has already begun considering the plan ahead. “Once winter passes and energy levels rise, there are important things to do,” said Arvidson. “We need to go back to the Bench, where we saw the gypsum vein Homestake and find a bigger one that we can grind into, remove any coating, and redo the measurements.”

While Opportunity performed a triple crunch on Homestake, there was not time before winter set in for the rover to hang out and make any in situ measurements. And Homestake is too small to revisit for a grind. “The width is too small, so it doesn’t fill the field of view of the APXS,” Arvidson explained. “Once we start moving, we’ll pop out to the Bench either on the east side or the west side, and find a thicker wider vein, grind that, and look at it before and after with the APXS.

Hmmmm… so, Oppy is going gypsum-hunting!! But where will she go? Seeing as Homestake was found down on the lower ground, on the “bench” of Cape York, here are two possible routes she might take after rolling away from Greeley Haven…

Obviously I’m just guessing there, adding two and two to get, oh, I don’t know, 50? But if Oppy is going to head back down to the bench then surely, SURELY “The Cleft” will be a tempting target? There are lots of MER followers who would love to see that feature up close. And who knows, maybe there are some nice, big fat bands of gypsum down there just waiting to be studied by Oppy…!

And after the gypsum-hunt? Well, those southern hills, the Tribulation Range (my name) are calling, so maybe Oppy will take a route something like this (red line, a bit faint and hard to see, sorry, but I’m sure you’ll manage..!)…

But that’s all for the future. Here’s a new pic I’ve made showing part of the ground at Oppy’s ‘feet’…

…and here’s the latest view of the sundial, showing, I can almost convince myself, that it is a little cleaner than it was a week or so ago..?

Check back soon for more news and views.

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