So, here we are, the last day of 2017… and Opportunity is still with us, still exploring, still roving on Mars. In January it will be 14 years since she landed on the Red Planet… 14 years… amazing… For a rover that we hoped would survive for 90 days on Mars, she’s done pretty well… 🙂
Opportunity ends 2017 in good shape, slowly but carefully surveying Perseverance Valley in the inner slope of Endeavour Crater. As I thought might be the case, the Valley has turned out to be more of a series of quite visually-unexciting shallow, meandering channels rather than steep-walled gullies. But that’s ok. The appeal of the Valley is scientific, not aesthetic; Opportunity is there for the science, not the sight-seeing. Perseverance Valley is full of questions – how old is it? What sculpted it? What different kinds of rocks does it contain? Opportunity is answering those questions by carefully conducting a survey of the area, as any human geologist would. So, although the landscape isn’t the most thrilling she has visited and trundled through, it’s a very important location, and in the months and years ahead the Valley will come to life via scientific papers, talks and presentations. Which is, basically, how science works…
So, to end the year, a “catch up” of images I’ve been making recently, which show what the Valley is really like. I hope you find them interesting.
And 2018? What will that bring for Opportunity? More exploring of Perseverance Valley, definitely, before moving on down to the crater floor and heading south for new features, new views and new scientific discoveries within and around Endeavour, all of which I’ll cover here, of course. Maybe 2018 will also see NASA treating Opportunity with more respect, covering her mission in more detail and paying as much attention to her as they do to her big sister, Curiosity? Maybe, after ignoring her for many, many months, the HiRISE camera team will finally take another image of her, and we’ll see her there in Perseverance Valley?
Well, we live in hope…
Maybe 2018 will be the year we finally lose Opportunity? As much as we want her to, she can’t last forever; Mars will eventually claim her, just as it did Spirit and all the landers and rovers before her. Perhaps at some point next year I’ll go on to Twitter or Facebook – bleary-eyed, first thing in the morning, before going to work, or during the evening when I’m back home and should be doing something more constructive – and will read that contact has been lost with Opportunity? Maybe there will then follow several anxious days when her controllers try desperately to contact her, without success… and then, at a hastily-arranged press conference, we’ll hear an announcement from NASA that her mission has ended..?
Maybe. But I don’t think so. I think Opportunity’s best days are still ahead of her.
And so 2017 ends… I’d like to thank all of my regular visitors for supporting the blog by coming here, and for showing your support for Opportunity by simply reading the posts. This blog has been going for over 9 YEARS now, which must make it one of the longest-running MER-related blogs on the internet..? I hope you all have a wonderful 2018 – and keep stopping by to see how Opportunity is doing. I don’t think any of us are ready to say goodbye to her yet… 🙂