[meteorite-list] Opportunity Mars Rover Preparing for Active Winter
From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Mon, 28 Sep 2015 12:52:21 -0700 (PDT)
Opportunity Mars Rover Preparing for Active Winter
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
September 25, 2015
NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is conducting a "walkabout"
survey of "Marathon Valley," where the rover's operators plan to use the
vehicle through the upcoming Martian winter, and beyond, to study the
context for outcrops bearing clay minerals.
Marathon Valley slices downhill from west to east for about 300 yards
or meters through the western rim of Endeavour Crater. Opportunity has
been investigating rock targets in the western portion of the valley since
late July, working its way eastward in a thorough reconnaissance of the
The rover's panoramic camera has captured a scene dominated by a summit
called "Hinners Point," forming part of the valley's northern edge. The
image also shows a portion of the valley floor with swirling reddish zones
that have been a target for study. It is online at:
For several months starting in mid- to late October, the rover team plans
to operate Opportunity on the southern side of the valley to take advantage
of the sun-facing slope. The site is in Mars' southern hemisphere, so
the sun is to the north during fall and winter days. Tilting the rover
toward the sun increases power output from its solar panels. The shortest-daylight
period of this seventh Martian winter for Opportunity will come in January
"Our expectation is that Opportunity will be able to remain mobile through
the winter," said Mars Exploration Rover Project Manager John Callas of
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.
The walkabout is identifying investigation targets in and near the valley
floor. Rocks in reddish zones there contain more silica and less iron
than most rocks in the area.
"We have detective work to do in Marathon Valley for many months ahead,"
said Opportunity Deputy Principal Investigator Ray Arvidson, of Washington
University in St. Louis. "During the Martian late fall and winter seasons
Opportunity will conduct its measurements and traverses on the southern
side of the valley. When spring arrives the rover will return to the valley
floor for detailed measurements of outcrops that may host the clay minerals."
Endeavour Crater spans about 14 miles (22 kilometers) in diameter. Opportunity
has been studying its western rim since 2011. Marathon Valley became a
high priority destination after a concentration of clay minerals called
smectites was mapped there based on observations by the Compact Reconnaissance
Imaging Spectrometer for Mars aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Smectites form under wetter, milder conditions than most rocks at the
Opportunity site. Opportunity is investigating relationships among clay-bearing
and neighboring deposits for clues about the history of environmental
The rover team has been dealing for more than a year with Opportunity's
tendency to undergo unplanned computer resets when using the type of onboard
memory that retains information when power is off: flash memory. For three
months until mid-September, operators fully avoided use of flash memory.
In this mode, images and other data cannot be stored overnight, when the
rover is powered off to conserve energy. To gain operational flexibility
in a trade-off with possible "lost" days from resets, the team has resumed
occasional use of flash memory.
NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Project landed twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity
on Mars in 2004 to begin missions planned to last three months. Both rovers
far exceeded those plans. Spirit worked for six years, and Opportunity
is still active. Findings about ancient wet environments on Mars have
come from both rovers. The project is one element of NASA's ongoing and
future Mars missions preparing for a human mission to the planet in the
2030s. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology, manages
the project for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.
For more information about Opportunity, visit:
Follow the project on Twitter and Facebook at:
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
guy.webster at jpl.nasa.gov
Received on Mon 28 Sep 2015 03:52:21 PM PDT