Science and Exploration

Opportunity Update: March 21-26, 2013

By Keith Cowing
March 29, 2013
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Opportunity Update: March 21-26, 2013
Opportunity's Front Hazcam View

Opportunity Moves Into Place for Quiet Period of Operations – sols 3255-3260, Mar. 21, 2013-Mar. 26, 2013: This location, called ‘Big Nickel,’ is the last in-situ (contact) target before the rover departs from Cape York, once solar conjunction is concluded.

Solar conjunction is when the Sun comes between Earth and Mars, which occurs about once every 26 months. During this time there will be diminished communications to Opportunity. The team will suspend sending the rover new commands between April 9 and April 26. The rover will continue science activities using a long-term set of commands to be sent beforehand. No new images are expected to be returned during this time.

On Sol 3255 (March 21, 2013), after completing the investigation of the ‘Newberries’ at the location called ‘Kirkwood,’ Opportunity drove over 82 feet (25 meters) straight north toward the location called ‘Big Nickel.’ On Sol 3257 (March 23, 2013), the rover completed the approach to ‘Big Nickel’ with a 13-foot (4-meter) drive. In order to reach a specific surface target, Opportunity performed a modest, 0.8 inch (2-centimeter) bump on Sol 3260 (March 26, 2013).

With the rover precisely positioned, the plan ahead is to sequence the robotic arm to collect a Microscopic Imager (MI) mosaic of the target, called ‘Esperance’ and place the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer (APXS) for an overnight integration.

On Sols 3255, 3256 and 3257 (March 21, 22 and 23, 2013), Opportunity benefitted from some dust cleaning of the solar arrays, improving energy production.

As of Sol 3260 (March 26, 2013), the solar array energy production was 590 watt-hours with an atmospheric opacity (Tau) of 0.760 and an improved solar array dust factor of 0.654.

Total odometry is 22.15 miles (35.65 kilometers).

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