Ten Years Ago…

This blog has just celebrated a rather special anniversary. The first “Road To Endeavour” post appeared on December 4th, 2008, eight years ago. A the time I didn’t really think Opportunity would make it through another two or three years, and I expected to be writing this blog for only that long. Eight years later, both Oppy and “Road To Endeavour” are still going strong. So, if you’re a regular reader, thank you for your visits! And if you’re a new reader, thank you for stopping by – I hope you’ll stay. The best really is yet to come, I think…

Speaking of anniversaries…

It occurred to me yesterday that we have a much more important and quite incredible anniversary coming up soon. In January next year Opportunity will have been on Mars for thirteen years (Earth years, not Mars years before anyone comments!). T H I R T E E N   Y E AR S !!! Not bad for a rover its team hoped would last for 90 days on the Red Planet and drive up to a kilometre from its landing site before its wheels stopped and it died. In those 13 years Oppy has seen and done amazing things. She’s driven to, into and back out of craters; she’s discovered and studied shiny metal meteorites; she’s crossed vast stretches of dusty desert; she’s found – then gleefully crushed – deposits of gypsum; she’s climbed a mountain; she’s done everything asked of her, and more. And she shows no signs of stopping.

Realising that set me wondering… where was she ten years ago? What was she doing? What was she seeing?

Turns out she was seeing this incredible view, as she explored Victoria Crater…

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Yes, that was ten years ago. Unbelievable, isn’t it?

Thinking back to Oppy’s arrival at Victoria Crater still gives me goosebumps after all these years. And as fascinating as her exploration of Endeavour Crater is, I still consider the Victoria phase of her mission to be its most exciting. I remember how we watched Victoria Crater “open up” ahead of Oppy as she rolled towards it, first becoming visible as a dark line in the terrain ahead before opening up and being revealed as that huge, deep pit, with its scalloped edge, gorgeous, crumbling cliffs and dust-rippled floor…

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I remember that time very fondly. I’d get up in the morning and check the “overnights” from Oppy with my first cup of the day, and there would (almost) always be some stunning new images to drool over. And if there weren’t I knew that when I got back from work later that day there would be. And the views were spectacular… Victoria’s ancient, crumbling cliffs were majestic in their raw geology. I couldn’t help but wonder what the mission’s geologists were thinking, looking at those same images, desperate to BE there, studying the naked stone, running their gloved hands over it, feeling its texture and seeing it with their own eyes.

I thought I’d go back to those images and re-process some of them in the way I process the images Oppy is taking now…

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If you look closely at that second image there you’ll see Oppy’s own tracks on the ground, leading away from the horizon. I love that view!

And a colour view of the base of one of the cliffs, too…

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As Oppy looked out across Victoria she could see a few bumps on the far horizon – look at the centre of the skyline on the following image and you’ll see them too…

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Let’s zoom in on those bumps a little…

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At the time we didn’t pay much attention to them; they were features 16km away, parts of the rim of another crater more than 16km away – a curiosity, nothing more. But as Oppy finished her tour of Victoria her team had to decide where to send her next.. and they chose those bumps. Because those distant humps are the hills which form the rim of Endeavour Crater, were Oppy is now.

As Oppy set off for the hills of Endeavour I’m pretty sure very few people thought she;d actually reach them. I know I didn’t. I hoped that she’d get a fair part of the way before she died, and find some more interesting things before then, but they were so ridculously, impossibly, stupidly far away that she would never reach them, surely?

Well, not only did she reach those hills, but she climbed them, sending back stunning views like this…

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And now she’s exploring those hills, trundling along the side of one of the slopes heading towards an ancient, water-carved gully, seeing views like this…

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So… just think about that for a moment, just think about Oppy’s incredible journey…

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Where will Oppy be in ten years’ time? Will she still be on the hills of Endeavour, having rolled to a stop years before? Or will she be exploring Iazu Crater, the “next one along” in the chain of craters in this region of Mars? That might sound like a ridiculous dream, but ten years ago reaching Endeavour was that, so who’s to say? If I’ve learned one thing during the past 12, almost 13 years it’s that you should never think a Mars Exploration Rover can’t do something because it will swivel its camera-covered head towards you, laugh at you, then trundle off and do it.

Keep going Oppy, keep going for as long as you can. And we’ll walk beside you all ythe way.

Won’t we? 🙂

 

 

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One Response to Ten Years Ago…

  1. Crazee says:

    Yes, I will walk along. Many thanks for your efford, keeping us up to date with Oppys adventures.

    What abaut a bet? Oppy will still be running when first human reaches Mars!

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