South across Botany Bay…

Having driven off Cape York and rolled down onto Botany Bay, Oppy is now well on her way towards Solander Point at the northern tip of Cape Tribulation…

Route_Map_Sol3317Image: courtesy Eduardo Tesheiner, UMSF forum

It’s a journey of 2km or so, and she should make landfall on the Cape at the start of August, two years after arriving at Cape York. When she get there, Oppy will probably hunker down for a while to rest and get her bearings through yet another martian winter, but I’m sure she won’t be a statue, she’ll hop from place to place, doing a bit of science here, a bit of science there, through the winter months, before starting up the slopes of the Cape in Spring. Then… oh, then we’ll see some views..!

But that’s for the future. At the moment Oppy is making her way towards Sutherland Point, the nearest point of the closest “land mass”standing  in the dusty sea that surrounds Endeavour Crater…

south

to Suth

If Oppy makes landfall on Sutherland Point – and it’s not clear yet if she will; she may just do a drive by imaging run then steam on towards Cape Tribulation – she may roll up at this area, and spend a little time studying the large ‘blocks’ visible scattered across and up on the slopes visible on this image I stitched together…

SP-1You can see these and other blocks very clearly on HiRISE views…

blocks wide jpgblocks zoom jpg

This is a fascinating area, to be sure. Here’s a high resolution view of the features from Cape York all the way to Nobby’s Head I made by stitching together, and then enhancing, HiRISE images…

pano south + OppyIf you look carefully at that image you’ll see a dark line snaking along Cape York, off it, and across Botany Bay onto Sutherland Point. That’s NOT REAL, ok?!? I’ve added that to give a rough impression of this latest stage of Oppy’s epic journey, and I’ve added a “virtual Oppy” at the end of the track, up on Sutherland Point, for effect. But it is shown to the correct scale, so I hope that will help show the scale of the features in this beautiful and intriguing landscape.

This morning some images came back from Oppy showing what the ground at her feet/wheels is like…

may 28-1There’s a lot going on there, isn’t there? Lots of layers in the plates of rock… drifted dust deposits… I wonder if Oppy will find any more Homestake-like deposits of gypsum as she works her way south? And if she does, will she stop to study them or just keep on keeping on, towards Cape Tribulation? Can’t wait to find out…!

It has become a bit of a MER cliche now, saying that “This is like a whole new mission…” but in this case it is genuinely the case. It’s important to stress just how big a deal this is for Oppy, her team and the MER mission. The rover has never been this far south before, she’s in – literally – uncharted scientific territory, seeing rocks and landscape features she hasn’t seen before. I was thinking about trying to summarise what Oppy was doing up on the eastern flank of Cape York, but there’s absolutely no point when that’s been done so comprehensively and brilliantly, as usual, by science journalist AJS Rayl in her latest update for The Planetary Society, which you can find here

Things are about to get very interesting and very exciting for Oppy. She WILL see new and amazing things from now on; she WILL make exciting new discoveries; she WILL surprise and delight us. So I hope you’ll keep following her as she makes her way across Botany Bay and up onto Solander Point by checking in here regularly. And together we’ll walk beside Oppy, keeping her company as she heads south towards Cape Tribulation..!

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2 Responses to South across Botany Bay…

  1. Tony Mach says:

    It never ceases to amaze me how cool this is – a robot driving on another planet, doing science, and sending back tantalizing images.

    Thanks for compiling this update! It makes me full of expectation of what is to come!

  2. Birgit says:

    Yes, that is Oppy, roving on a exotic, mystery Alienworld- and we`ll walk beside her !!!
    It is wonderfull and exciting…….

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