[meteorite-list] Mars Rover Opportunity Busy Through Depth of Winter

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Thu, 28 Jan 2016 14:59:55 -0800 (PST)
Message-ID: <201601282259.u0SMxtM2022142_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>


Mars Rover Opportunity Busy Through Depth of Winter
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
January 25, 2016

Fast Facts:

o Power available to NASA's Mars rover Opportunity is increasing after
the energy-minimum weeks of Martian winter.

o As the mission reaches the 12th anniversary of its landing on Mars,
Opportunity is examining clues in "Marathon Valley" about Mars' history.

NASA's senior Mars rover, Opportunity, worked through the lowest-solar-energy
days of the mission's seventh Martian winter, while using a diamond-toothed
rock grinder and other tools in recent weeks to investigate clues about
the Red Planet's environmental history.

The modern Mars environment lent a hand, providing wind that removed some
dust from Opportunity's solar panels in the weeks before and after the
Mars southern hemisphere's winter solstice on Jan. 2.

"Opportunity has stayed very active this winter, in part because the solar
arrays have been much cleaner than in the past few winters," said Mars
Exploration Rover Project Manager John Callas, of NASA's Jet Propulsion
Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

With the winter solstice over, the amount of sunshine available to Opportunity
will continue to increase for most of 2016.

The mission has just passed the 12th anniversary of its bouncy, hole-in-one
landing on Mars. It landed on Jan. 24, 2004, PST (early Jan. 25, UTC).
After the air-bag-cushioned craft stopped rolling inside Eagle Crater,
which is about 72 feet (22 meters) in diameter, it opened to release the
rover. Inspection of rocks in Eagle Crater during the originally planned
mission of three months yielded evidence of wet, acidic environmental
conditions on ancient Mars.

Researchers used Opportunity to examine a series of larger and ever more
distant craters over the next few years, for access to deeper and older
layers of Mars' history.

Each Martian year lasts about 1.9 Earth years. Because Mars is farther
from the sun, it takes longer to complete each orbit. The north-south
spin axis of Mars is tilted like Earth's, so Mars has summer and winter
seasons, too. They are about twice as long as the seasons on Earth, though.
That's why, 12 Earth years after Opportunity's landing, the rover is enduring
its seventh Martian winter.

Opportunity has been exploring the western rim of a 14-mile-wide (22-kilometer-wide)
crater named Endeavour since 2011. This winter, it is examining rocks
on the southern side of "Marathon Valley," which slices through Endeavor
Crater's rim from west to east. This is a location where observations
by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have mapped concentrations of clay
minerals that would have formed under wet, non-acidic conditions.

Researchers used Opportunity's rock abrasion tool this month to remove
surface crust from a rock target called "Private John Potts." (The team
is using names of members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition's Corps of
Discovery as informal names for targets in Marathon Valley.) The composition
and texture of the rock's exposed interior have been examined with instruments
on Opportunity's robotic arm.

The winter work area on the valley's south side keeps the rover's solar
panels tilted toward the sun crossing the northern sky. The benefits of
dust-clearing events and the strategy of choosing winter locations on
north-facing slopes are two key factors in extending Opportunity's productive
career 48 times longer, so far, than the originally planned mission of
three months after landing.

The solar panels are currently generating more than 460 watt hours per
day. That is up about 40 percent from earlier in this Martian winter,
but Opportunity has been able to conduct power-intensive operations such
as driving and rock-grinding throughout the winter. By contrast, during
Opportunity's first Martian winter on the Endeavour rim, power generation
dipped below 300 watt-hours for more than two months, and the mission
refrained from driving or rock-grinding for more than four months.

"With healthy power levels, we are looking forward to completing the work
in Marathon Valley this year and continuing onward with Opportunity,"
Callas said.

For more information about Opportunity, visit:



Media Contact

Guy Webster
Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
guy.webster at jpl.nasa.gov

Dwayne Brown / Laurie Cantillo
NASA Headquarters, Washington
202-358-1726 / 202-358-1077
dwayne.c.brown at nasa.gov / laura.l.cantillo at nasa.gov

Received on Thu 28 Jan 2016 05:59:55 PM PST

Help support this free mailing list:

Yahoo MyWeb