Opportunity on walkabout…

Time (at last!) for an update on what Opportunity has been up to as she prepares to drive down into Perseverance Valley.

Since the last post, Oppy’s team has been working hard to resolve the issue with the front wheel that suddenly refused to turn, and reports from NASA suggest that the wheel is now moving again which must be a huge relief; a stuck wheel wouldn’t have ended Opportunity’s mission – one of Spirit’s wheels jammed, remember, and that didn’t prevent her from continuing her exploration and studies of Homeplate and the features around it (it even led to at least one totally accidental discovery!) – but it obviously would have affected what, and how much she could do down in the valley, and would not have been a welcome development at all. But the wheel is moving again, and Opportunity is now continuing a prolonged “walkabout” around the entrance to Perseverance Valley, wandering to and fro, taking lots of pictures and measurements, basically checking the area out in great detail.

Here’s a map from a recent NASA bulletin showing Opportunity’s meandering path over the past few weeks, since arriving in the vicinity of the valley, and the path she will now take to the valley entrance…


This is what geologists do here on Earth. When studying a feature they make a detailed survey of the area and other features around it, to see the main feature they want to study in context. Doing this helps them to understand the dynamics of the area, the processes and events that have happened there, why things look the way they do, etc etc. The MER team has sent Opportunity on this walkabout above Perseverance Valley to try and figure out what formed the valley in the first place, how it fits in to the history of Endeavour Crater, and what they might actually find when they get down into the valley itself. And it’s important they do a really detailed survey of the area above and around the valley because once Opportunity drives down that slope she is not coming back up again, at least not back up to where she is now; she is going to work her way down the valley and then drive out onto the crater floor (really looking forward to that!) before heading further south, leaving Perseverance Valley behind.

But the descent into the valley isn’t going to happen for a little while yet; soon Opportunity will have to enter a “go slow” period as Earth passes close to the Sun as seen from Mars (see graphic below, the blue dot shows how close to the Sun Earth will be in the sky in late July), and communications between Oppy and her terrestrial controllers become very limited…


But don’t worry, once this “solar conjunction” is over Opportunity will get back to doing what she does best – roving and exploring….! Here’s a rough overview of where she is now, and where she will be going…


This past week or so Opportunity has sent back LOTS of pictures of the scenery around the entrance to the valley but I’ve had a really – and I mean really! – hard time getting them to stitch together with the software I use. I’ve had more luck with individual views though, and here are some of those…





Finally for this post, Curiosity has been sending back some lovely pictures too. Here’s a mosaic I put together from some of them… love the complicated geology visible in this view…

pano8bf AA

I’ve said it before and I don’t mind saying it again: the great photographer Ansel Adams would have LOVED photographing Mars… 🙂

Check back soon for more news from Meridiani Planum. In the meantime, here’s your regular reminder of just how incredible an achievement it is for Opportunity to still be driving around Mars… 😉

collage martian oppy 4766



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2 Responses to Opportunity on walkabout…

  1. requalls2015 says:

    Thank you for the update. I have read all of your posts!!!

  2. Chris Martin says:

    Thanks you Stu for all the wonderful work you do in keeping us informed about the happenings on Mars, much appreciated. BTW, hope you find a new kitty soon. It will really help as I can confirm from my recent similar experience with losing a beloved pet.

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