A problem with Opportunity..?

Hmmm. Maybe. We’ll see. It might be nothing. Nobody panic, ok? We’ll just keep an eye on this, reported in NASA’s own regular “status update” on our amazing rover…

On Sol 4750 (June 4, 2017), the plan was to perform a short, tight backward arc, but the left-front steering actuator stalled. With the left-front wheel steered to more than 30 degrees from straight, the focus of the team is first to assess whether this stall was a terrain related phenomenon. So, on Sol 4752 (June 6, 2017), the rover arced back without steering the left-front wheel and imaged the location of the steering stall. Although there is evidence to suggest a terrain effect, it is not conclusive. The next step will be a careful attempt to straighten the left-front wheel. The plan on Sol 4754 (June 8, 2017) is to gently turn the wheel straight.

Translation? Oppy’s left front wheel is stalled, stuck at an angle off to one side, but they’re going to try to straighten it. As I said, don’t panic, it might be nothing. It probably IS nothing.

Anyway, apologies for the lack of posts for a week or so (did anyone notice? Hello? Is anyone out there???) but we were away on holiday, camping up in the rain-lashed, wind-battered, midge-infested Highlands of Scotland, a place as opposite as it possible to get from the land Opportunity is exploring (and yes, that’s our tent on the right on the bottom picture)…

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While we were away I kept up to date with Opportunity’s adventures – I still have to stop myself shaking my head with wonder when I’m curled up in my sleeping bag, late at night, listening to the wind howling and the rain hissing against the tent, looking at my phone, seeing images taken on Mars just a few hours earlier! – and as soon as we got back I set to work making some new colourised images out of the raw black and white images that came back in my absence, and here they are…

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More soon, stay tuned for the latest news about Oppy’s wheel…

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Lingering on the edge…

It looks like Opportunity STILL hasn’t set off down into Perseverance Valley yet, but is taking a lot of photos of her surroundings, and the route ahead instead. I can’t imagine it will be long now before she revvs up and heads down-slope towards the Valley, but I was saying that a week ago so we’ll just have to wait and see, I guess.

In the meantime, here are some images I’ve made recently (click to enlarge, as ever), including what I think are some really nice views of Opportunity’s tracks on the dusty landscape. I always love seeing those…

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Meanwhile, many miles away, CURIOSITY has been taking some very pretty pictures too, showing rocks with lots of lovely layers…

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Stay on target…

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Well, Opportunity still hasn’t started to explore Perseverance Valley yet… it seems she’s taking another good long look at it before setting off. And that’s ok, she deserves a rest, and it makes perfect sense to make a detailed study of the gully and plan the next few moves before starting into it.

I’m looking forward to seeing the valley from closer up, tho. The views we have at the moment are quite… yes, I’ll say it… dull. We’re seeing it at a very oblique angle, which means we can’t see the channels and ridges of the feature. When Opportunity gets a bit closer we will, tho, I’m sure. In the meantime, here a few of my recent processed images…

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By way of contrast (and yes, to fill out this post!) here are a couple of processed images from Curiosity, which is currently taking a look at some VERY thin fragile-looking rock structures… as usual, click to enlarge…

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Get in there, Oppy…!

It seems my previous post was a bit premature and Opportunity *hasn’t* started down into Perseverance Valley yet, but is lingering at the top of the slope, taking a look at the valley before heading down into it…

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A load of images came back today showing the view down-slope, but none of the software packages or websites I use could stitch them into a decent image. Instead I had to paste them manually into a single long image, which turned out hideously, but here you go… you have been warned…

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But it does show that Opportunity has drive to the edge of a very small ledge to the upper left of the valley, so she can take a proper look at it and work out how to get to it safely…

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So where has Oppy decided to take a breather at? Approximately… here…

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Original image: Sean Doran, used with permission

 

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Perseverance Valley beckons…

Looking at her wheel tracks on the latest images I think… I *think*… Opportunity has turned towards the entrance to Perseverance Valley and is starting to move towards it or even into it…

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If that’s the case then Opportunity has begin an exciting new stage of her already-amazing adventure on Mars!

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So… Opportunity is going into the valley… seems appropriate to play this piece of classical music to mark the occasion… After all these years I still can’t make out a single word he’s saying, as he jigs about, arms flailing, like a drunk bank clerk at the branch Chrustmas Party, but it’s a BRILLIANT song…

 

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On the edge…

Opportunity has reached the entrance to Perseverance Valley, and like any good explorer about to start a new adventure is now taking a good look around her, and looking down into the valley itself, before starting on the next leg of her journey.

As I suspected, the view down into the valley from its entrance is less than dramatic – no steep walls, no debris-littered floor, no meandering channels, but quite a few dust dunes which Oppy will have to be careful driving through or around. I’m sure the scenery will get more impressive as Opportunity works her way down the gully.

Here are some views I processed over the past few days…

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Here’s one of my favourite views for a long time – the ramp-like landscape feature they’ve called “Winnemucca”…

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So, where is Opportunity now? About… here… I think…

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… but that’s just me guessing, don’t bet your house on it 🙂

When will Oppy start to drive down into the Valley? Don’t think it will be long, so check back soon…

 

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Into the valley… soon…

The latest images to come back from Mars show that Opportunity is now *this* close… **THIS** close to the entrance to Perseverance Valley, and surely it’s only going to be another couple of sols before she rolls up to the lip of the ridge, looks over it and gives us our first view of the ancient, possibly water-carved gully which will be her next science target…

Here’s a mosaic  made from images which came back yesterday… You can see how Oppy has rolled up almost to the entrance of the Valley…

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So just where is Oppy now? Well, the yellow line I’ve added to this gorgeous, computer rendered view, made by image processing wizard Sean Doran, shows (roughly) where Opportunity is now, having driven up out of Marathon Valley and trundled along the top of Cape Tribulation to get here (right to left)…

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There are some very interesting sights around Opportunity as she prepares to drive down into Perseverance…

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And just this morning some… interesting images came back from Opportunity, images like this…

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Oh boy, the tin foil hat brigade are going to have a field day with those… I can just imagine the rantings and ravings on their forums and blogs… “Mars rover spots UFO!” “Mars rover spots flaming comet heading straight for Earth!” The truth is there if they care to look for it, on the fantastic Midnight Planets website, which posts images returned by Opportunity…

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I’m taking that image footer to mean that Opportunity was attempting to image the martian moon, Phobos, across the Sun. Nothing to get Muldur excited… 🙂

Check back soon for more images from Opportunity!

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