Status Report

NASA Mars Rover Opportunity: Road Trip Gets Under Way

By SpaceRef Editor
October 7, 2008
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NASA Mars Rover Opportunity: Road Trip Gets Under Way

sol 1655-1660, September 19-24, 2008:

Opportunity has embarked on the next great challenge — a journey of 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) southeast to a huge hole in the ground nicknamed “Endeavour Crater.” Measuring 22 kilometers (14 miles) from rim to rim and plunging 300 meters (1,000 feet) below the surface, Endeavour Crater is significantly larger than “Victoria Crater,” which is 730 meters (almost half a mile) wide and 70 meters (200 feet) deep. Because it is so much deeper, Endeavour promises to expose even more rock layers going further back in time.

Opportunity’s trek began on sol 1659 (Sept. 23, 2008), as the rover backed away from a slippery ripple and advanced 10 meters (30 feet) toward its destination. The journey to Endeavour will be long. Opportunity is sure to encounter many interesting science opportunities along the way.

During the previous week, Opportunity’s wheels slipped excessively while trying to cross a ripple to reach a patch of dust on the ripple’s downwind side. After two tries on sols 1652 (Sept. 16, 2008) and 1654 (Sept. 18, 2008), rover operators decided to resume driving and look for other deposits of Martian dust in more accessible locations.

Opportunity remains healthy. All subsystems are performing as expected as of Martian day, or sol, 1660 (Sept. 24, 2008). Power is on the rise, with sunlight generating 623 watt-hours of solar energy — enough to light a 100-watt bulb for more than 6 hours (100 watt-hours is the amount of energy needed to light a 100-watt bulb for one hour.)

Sol-by-sol summary:

Besides measuring daily, dust-related changes in atmospheric clarity with the panoramic camera, Opportunity completed the following activities:

Sol 1655 (Sept. 19, 2008): Opportunity acquired full-color images, using all 13 filters of the panoramic camera, of a target dubbed “Velvet.” Opportunity took images of the tracks made by the rover’s wheels with the navigation camera.

Sol 1656: Opportunity acquired a 5-by-1 panel of images with the navigation camera and a 10-by-1 panel of images with the panoramic camera. After relaying data to NASA’s Odyssey orbiter as it passed overhead for transmission to Earth, Opportunity measured atmospheric dust at sunset with the panoramic camera. The rover measured argon gas in the Martian atmosphere with the alpha-particle X-ray spectrometer.

Sol 1657: In the morning, Opportunity monitored dust on the panoramic-camera mast assembly. The rover took panoramic-camera images of its tracks and, after sending data to Odyssey, measured atmospheric argon with the alpha-particle X-ray spectrometer.

Sol 1658: Following several measurements of atmospheric dust at different times of day, Opportunity relayed data to Odyssey and used the alpha-particle X-ray spectrometer to determine the amount of atmospheric argon.

Sol 1659: In the morning, Opportunity took thumbnail images as well as spot images of the sky for calibration purposes with the panoramic camera. Opportunity then began the trek to Endeavour, driving almost 10.5 meters (34 feet). The rover acquired images of the surrounding terrain with the navigation camera just before and just after ending the drive. After sending data to Odyssey, the rover measured atmospheric argon.

Sol 1660 (Sept. 24, 2008): Opportunity surveyed the morning horizon with the panoramic camera and acquired six, time-lapse movie frames in search of clouds with the navigation camera. At high Sun, Opportunity surveyed the sky with the panoramic camera. Before relaying data to Odyssey, Opportunity took images of the rover’s wheel tracks with the panoramic camera.


As of sol 1659 (Sept. 23, 2008), Opportunity’s total odometry was 11,808.39 meters (7.34 miles).

SpaceRef staff editor.