Thursday, April 26, 2012

Where is the Mars Opportunity Rover now?

For those of you frequenting this site, and viewing the images posted here, you might be asking where on Mars is the Opportunity rover? In knowing this information, it will help to appreciate the geography and landmarks you might be seeing in the images themselves. Not only will you know where you are, you can also understand the different features in the images themselves. I asked myself the same question. So in helping myself out, I will help you out. I hope you find this useful.
NASA / JPL / Cornell / M. Di Lorenzo / K. Kremer
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NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
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The primary surface mission for Opportunity was planned to last 90 sols. The mission has received several extensions and has been operating for 3014 days since landing. An archive of weekly updates on the rover's status can be found at the Opportunity Update Archive.

From its initial landing, by chance, into an impact crater amidst an otherwise generally flat plain, Opportunity has successfully investigated soil and rock samples and taken panoramic photos of its landing site.

First Navcam Image - Sol 1

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Its sampling allowed NASA scientists to make hypotheses concerning the presence of hematite and past presence of water on the surface of Mars. Following this, it was directed to travel across the surface of Mars to investigate another crater site, Endurance crater, which it investigated from June – December 2004. Subsequently, Opportunity examined the impact site of its own heat shield and discovered an intact meteorite, now known as Heat Shield Rock, on the surface of Mars.

From late April 2005 to early June of that year, Opportunity was perilously lodged in a sand dune, with several wheels buried in the sand. Over a six week period Earth-based physical simulations were performed to decide how best to extract the rover from its position without risking a permanent immobilization of the valuable vehicle. Successful maneuvering a few centimeters at a time eventually freed the rover, which resumed its travels.

Opportunity was directed to proceed in a southerly direction to Erebus crater, a large, shallow, partially buried crater and a stopover on the way south towards Victoria crater, between October 2005 and March 2006. It experienced some mechanical problems with its robotic arm.

NASA / JPL / composite by Errol Coder
Pancam - Victoria Crater

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In late September 2006, Opportunity reached Victoria crater and explored along the rim in a clockwise direction. In June 2007 it returned to Duck Bay, its original arrival point; in September 2007 it entered the crater to begin a detailed study. In August 2008, Opportunity left Victoria crater for Endeavor crater.

On 7 March 2009 (sol 1820) Opportunity first saw the rim of Endeavour after driving about 3.2 kilometers (2.0 mi) since it left Victoria in August 2008.Opportunity also saw Iazu crater which is about 38 kilometers (24 mi) away and is about 7 kilometers (4.3 mi) in diameter.

On 7 April 2009 (sol 1850) Opportunity generated 515 watt-hours after a cleaning event of the solar arrays increased energy production by about 40% From 16 to 22 April (sol 1859 to 1865) Opportunity made a series of drives and during that week traveled a total distance of 478 meters (1,568 ft) The drive actuator for the right front wheel, which had been rested while Opportunity studied a rock outcrop called "Penrhyn", had motor currents very close to normal levels.
NASA / JPL / Cornell
Block Island
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On 18 July 2009 (Sol 1950) a large dark rock was noted in the opposite direction from which Opportunity was traveling and so the rover headed towards it, reaching it on 28 July (Sol 1959). The rock turned out to be a meteorite and was named Block Island. Opportunity spent until 12 September 2009 (Sol 2004) investigating the meteorite, before returning to its journey towards Endeavour Crater.

Its journey was interrupted on Sol 2022 by the find of another meteorite, a 0.5 meter specimen dubbed 'Shelter Island' which the rover investigated until Sol 2034. It then headed for another meteorite, 'Mackinac Island', which it reached four sols later on Sol 2038 (17 October 2009). The rover conducted a drive-by imaging sequence but otherwise did not investigate this meteorite, resuming its journey to Endeavour.
NASA / JPL / Cornell /
color composite by Emily Lakdawalla
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On 19 May 2010, Opportunity reached 2246 sols of operation, making it the longest Mars surface mission in history, breaking the record of 2245 sols set by Viking 1.

In July 2010, it was announced that the Opportunity team is using the theme of names given to places visited by British Royal Navy Captain, Lieutenant James Cook, in his 1769–1771 Pacific Ocean voyage in command of HMS Endeavour, for informal names of sites at Endeavour Crater. These currently include "Cape Tribulation" and "Cape Dromedary", "Cape Byron" (the most easterly point of the Australian mainland), and "Point Hicks" (the part of the Australian mainland first sighted by the Endeavour in 1770.)

On 8 September 2010, it was announced that Opportunity had reached the halfway point of the 19-kilometer journey between Victoria crater and Endeavour crater.

In November the rover spent a few days imaging a 20 meter crater called Intrepid while navigating through a field of small impact craters. On 14 November 2010 (Sol 2420) total odometry passed the 25 kilometer mark. Average solar array energy production in October and November was about 600 watt-hours
NASA / JPL / Cornell / panorama by Errol Coder
Pancam - Endeavour Crater at Point Spirit
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Opportunity arrived at Endeavour crater on 9 August 2011, at a landmark called Spirit Point named after its rover twin, after traversing 13 miles from Victoria crater, over a three year period.

Endeavour is 14 miles (23 km) wide and offers scientists new terrain to explore, including older rocks than encountered heretofore, and clay minerals that may have formed in the presence of water. The rover's deputy principal investigator, Ray Arvidson, said it will probably not enter Endeavour crater as it appears to contain material observed previously. The rocks on the rim are older than any previously studied by Opportunity. "I think there's much more interest in driving around the perimeter of the rim," said Arvidson.
NASA / JPL / Cornell / composite by Errol Coder
Pancam - Tisdale - Enhanced Color
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Upon arriving at Endeavour, Opportunity almost immediately began discovering Martian phenomena not previously observed. On Sol 2694 (22 August 2011) the rover began examining Tisdale 2, a large ejecta block. “This is different from any rock ever seen on Mars," said Steve Squyres, principal investigator for Opportunity at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. "It has a composition similar to some volcanic rocks, but there's much more zinc and bromine than we've typically seen. We are getting confirmation that reaching Endeavour really has given us the equivalent of a second landing site for Opportunity."
NASA / JPL / Cornell / M. Di Lorenzo / K. Kremer
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In early December, Opportunity analyzed a formation dubbed 'Homestake,' which was concluded to be formed of gypsum. Using three of the rover's instruments - the Microsopic Imager, the Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer and the Panoramic Camera's filters - researchers determined the deposit to be hydrated calcium sulfate, or gypsum, a mineral that does not occur except in the presence of water. This discovery was called "slam dunk" evidence that "water flowed through underground fractures in the rock."

Opportunity had driven more than 34 km (21 mi) by 22 November 2011 (sol 2783), as preparations were made for the coming Martian winter.
At the end of 2011 the rover was sited at a location called Greeley Haven, that tilted it about 15 degrees to the north, an angle that should provide more favorable solar energy production during the Martian winter. With dust in the air and on the solar arrays higher than in past years, this winter is expected to be more challenging.
NASA / JPL / Cornell / composite by Errol Coder
Pancam - Edge of Greeley Haven
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In January 2012 the rover returned data from Greeley Haven (named after Ronald Greeley) while enduring its 5th Martian winter and 8th Earth year on Mars It is being used to study Martian wind, which has been described as "the most active process on Mars today" and conduct a radio science experiment. By carefully measuring radio signals, wobbles in Martian rotation may show whether the planet has a solid or liquid interior. If the wind cleans dust off the solar panels, Opportunity will have more power during winter The winter worksite sits on the Cape York segment of the rim of Endeavour Crater. Opportunity reached the edge of this 14-mile-wide (22-kilometer-wide) crater in August after three years of driving from smaller Victoria Crater, which it studied for two years.
NASA / JPL / Cornell / composite by Errol Coder
Pancam - Hill just SW of Greeley
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On Sol 2852 (1 February 2012) the energy production from the solar array was 270 watt-hours, with a Mars atmospheric opacity (Tau) of 0.679, a solar array dust factor of 0.469, with total odometry at 21.35 miles (34.36137 km) By March (around Sol 2890), 'Amboy' rock was studied with the Mössbauer spectrometer and the Microscopic Imager, and the amount Argon gas in the Martian air was measured. The Mars winter solstice passed on 30 March 2012 (Sol 2909) and on 1 April there was small cleaning event On Sol 2913 (3 April 2012), solar array energy production was 321 watt-hours.

This is location that all the recent images are captured at. Currently the Opportunity team is conducting a survey of the surrounding landscape, and will remain here through the winter.

As of April 26, 2012, Opportunity remains positioned on the north end of Cape York on the rim of Endeavour Crater.

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