Field Notes from Mars:
Status Reports for MER Opportunity Rover at Endeavour Crater, Meridiani Planum
L. Crumpler, MER Science Team & New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science
The Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is still exploring Mars.
Sol 3753 - August 15, 2014
• This sol is the Spring Equinox for the southern hemisphere on Mars
• Opportunity is now commencing ascent of a steep crater rim segment
• Opportunity has arrived at the base of an unusual outcrop
• Approximate 200 sol journey along “mountain ridge crest” ahead
Opportunity did the first drives upslope around sol 3745 on its long journey toward the crest of the highest rim segment of Endeavour crater, “Cape Tribulation.” The surface here consists of a smooth regolith streaked with ripples of sand blowing off the plains to the west. There is a long ridge with spectacular rocky outcrops that makes a nice ramp for the first part of the climb and in the past couple of sols Opportunity began the approach to that ridge. There are some really big rocky outcrops on top of the ridge and we would like to find out what they are. But the slopes of the ridge are too steep to climb to the base of the outcrops. So we will drive up to the base of the ridge and look at some of the scree or float that has rolled down the slope and collected at the foot of the ridge.
A view from north of the ridge a few sols before arrival. This is a rather large outcrop and it is unusual. It is not clear why a long, linear ridge should be located here on the rim of Endeavour crater that runs a right angles to the rim. And the significance of the well-defined layer of outcrop capping the ridge is even less clear. We have lots of ideas, but we have not seen anything quite like this before here at Endeavour crater.
This color Pancam image from the same location as the above Navcam, shows the outcrop a little better. A lot of rocks are tumbled off the outcrop and should be accessible at the foot of the slope.
After the drive on sol 3751 Opportunity was in position to look back at the south-facing side of the ridge. Note the rover tracks off to the right. A few weeks ago Opportunity was driving along that ridge way off in the distance. The interior of Endeavour crater is in the upper right. The slope up to the outcrop here is pretty steep, so all the rocks littering the surface in the foreground are derived from the outcrop up on top. For scale: The larger rock about halfway up the slope on the left is about 40 to 60 cm across and about 8 to 9 m away. Unfortunately, as of this writing the Navcam frames centered on the outcrop were still just thumbnails. (In fact, ever since we got within a hundred meters of the ridge, all the downlinks have been wimpy and most of the data is still on Opportunity waiting to be sent. As a result all frames of the outcrop are thumbnails only. This should be plenty of basis for all sorts of conspiracy theories.)
For the next couple of sols we will look at a sample of these rocks. Here is one right in front of Opportunity as seen with the Pancam.
Looks like a fine-grained basalt. We have seen basaltic rocks in a few places along the crater rim, but this ridge is largest exposure so far.
We did a quick Phobos transit observation a few sols ago. These transit observations are data points on the orbital determination of the Martian satellites and should come in handy some day when astronauts are trying to catch up and land on the moons of Mars.
The ridge where Opportunity is operating on this sol is the ridge near the top of this image labeled "Dwowiak Ridge." We are on a quest. The quest is to examine some really wild geology and outcrops about 1.3 km south of the current location at a place dubbed “Marathon Valley”. Above is the 1.5 km long path that we will try to follow in order to get there. We have two options: (1) take our time and pull into Marathon Valley just before winter shuts everything down, or (2) make rapid progress and arrive at Marathon Valley early enough in the season that we can do some sight-seeing before weather shuts things down. So far we are way ahead of schedule. But we have covered only about 1/5 of the traverse so far. So there is still plenty of time to get behind schedule!
? Opportunity continues driving south along the rim of Endeavour crater
? Now approaching next area of outcrop
? Solar panels remain very clean, cleanest since about sol 1600
? Approaching distance driving record
Opportunity is several weeks past winter solstice. Solar panels are the cleanest since 2006, we are driving south along the rim near the crest of Murray Ridge
? The NM Museum of Natural History MER 10th Anniversary Exhibit opened here on January 24
? Opportunity is still at its "winter haven" on the crest of Murray Ridge
? Opportunity finally finished its study of the "jelly donut" rock Pinnacle Island
? Opportunity is looking now at some odd, possibly mineralized rocks
? Today is Opportunity's tenth birthday
? Opportunity is at its "winter haven" on the crest of Murray Ridge
? Opportunity is investigating the "mystery rock" Pinnacle Island
? Power is good due to panel cleaning events
- Opportunity is near summit of this part of Endeavour crater rim
- the rock types that we have searched for may be in local outcrops
- winter power is looking good
- the climb continues along the crest of the crater rim
- Opportunity is now very high and the view is starting to be spectacular
- possible important outcrops spotted ahead
- Opportunity has begun the ascent of Solander Point
- northward tilts of 15 ? or better at the end of each drive
- outcrops look like impact breccias back on the crest of Cape York
- Opportunity "wades ashore" at Solander Point on September 13
- climbing Solander Point is imminent
- spectacular Navcam panorama of the major geologic contact at this location
Opportunity is at the base of Solander Point. A boulder field here appears to be mostly vesicular basalt, a rock type that is not local. Shortly Opportunity will drive northwest along the scarp at the base of Solander Point.
The opportunity is less than 100m from "landfall" on Solander Point. The next drive will put Opportunity at the "shore". A "New World" is about to be explored; what strange rocks and structures will we encounter?
The Opportunity is about to finish the last observations in the plains before arrival at the next mountain, there is a short stop here to measure one last rock in the planes.
Opportunity is only a couple of hundred meters out and closing fast on the next mountain. A short side trip east is in the works to check out an anomaly in the terrain
Opportunity has exceeded 37 kilometers of odometry, has driven up onto the next "island" of rock, "Sutherland Point" and "Nobbys Head" as of sol 3325, and is currently is only about 700 m from the goal, the mountains to the south.
Opportunity has driven up onto the bench on the east side of Sutherland Point.
Since sol 3308 Opportunity has been driving south, on sol 3315 Opportunity reached the end of Cape York" and is now driving in the "plains".
Opportunity finishes studies at Matijevic Hill and begins the drive south and breaks off-Earth driving distance record set by Apollo 17.
Opportunity is doing one last "hurrah" here at Cape York before solar conjunction on a particularly interesting outcrop with a composition and structure unlike anything encountered before.
Rover Memory Hiccup.
Flash memory or computer problems oddly occurred on both Curiosity and Opportunity around Feb 27.
Clean-up activities in preparation for driving south.
We sent Opportunity a few meters uphill looking for the contact and are trying to get a quick composition and microscopic image on the outcrop.
Lots of small light-colored veins crossing through the outcrops here on Matijevic Hill, and we have tried to get a handle on the composition of these veins by doing multiple offsets with the APXS.
We moved north to an outcrop we called "Flack Lake" recently and did a quick look at the rocks with the MI and APXS.
Completed the bump and may have the target in the work volume....
Another New Mexico name gets used for a Mars outcrop target.
We finished up with examination of the big outcrop ("Copper Cliff") and moved to the next target over the weekend.
Traveling towards to big outcrop "Copper Cliff".
The decision was made to drive to the outcrop to the immediate west "Copper Cliff".
Finished Outcrop Walk, Starting Detailed Examination of Outcrops, Looking for Clays
An "outcrop walk" with Opportunity on the slopes of Cape York, a small residual part of the rim on the 20+ km diameter Endeavour crater, Mars.