Science and Exploration

Opportunity Ascending Solander Point at Endeavour Crater

By Keith Cowing
December 9, 2013
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Opportunity Ascending Solander Point at Endeavour Crater
Solander Point

The rover is maintaining favorable northerly tilts for improved energy production. In place for the long Thanksgiving Holiday, Opportunity conducted some in-situ (contact) science at another exposed rock outcrop.
On Sol 3502 (Nov. 29, 2013), the rover used the Microscopic Imager (MI) to collect a mosaic of the target named ‘Mount Tempest.’ That was followed by the placement of the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS) on the same for a multi-sol integration. After the holiday pause, the rover began moving again toward the winter destination.

On Sol 3505 (Dec. 2, 2013), Opportunity drove over 115 feet (35 meters) towards another energy lily pad that provide a view of the winter destination location. On Sol 3506 (Dec. 3, 2013), the rover pushed another 98 feet (30 meters) south up the grade of Solander Point. However, on that sol higher than expected currents were seen in the right-front wheel. The right-front wheel has exhibited higher than expected currents for years, but had been well behaved recently. So this sudden jump up in current does raise some concerns. Because the rover was in an unfavorable tilt at the end of this drive and the need to get more information about the wheel, a 66 feet (20-meter) drive was sequenced on Sol 3507 (Dec. 5, 2013). This drive included several diagnostic elements.

First, we increased the sampling rate on the wheel current to watch it closely. Second, we added a short 3 feet (1-meter) back and forth at the end of the drive. This would provide some insight into the directional behavior of the higher currents. We have been driving backward for years now, so have put more odometry on the rover going backward than forward. The Sol 3507 (Dec. 5 2013), drive show elevated but stable right-front wheel current for the 66-feet (20-meter) backward drive, but reduced current for the short 3-feet (1-meter) forward drive, then elevated again for the 3-feet (1-meter) backward movement. It is too early to say what this means. More investigation, analysis and diagnostics are to be done.

As of Sol 3507 (Dec. 5, 2013), the solar array energy production was 270 watt-hours with an atmospheric opacity (Tau) of 0.549 and a solar array dust factor of 0.467.

Total odometry is 24.05 miles (38.70 kilometers).

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.