Despite the lull of the holidays, the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission recorded one of the expedition's best months ever in December as Opportunity and her team confirmed the location of the smectite clay minerals on Matijevic Hill, effectively grabbing the scientific brass ring they came hoping to find at Endeavour Crater.
2013 is going to be a busy year in space exploration. Two missions launch to the Moon (LADEE and Chang'E 3), and another two to Mars (MAVEN and India's mission). Curiosity should drive to the Mountain, and Opportunity to the next site on Endeavour's rim. Cassini will be seeing rings and Titan. Others should continue routine operations, except maybe MESSENGER, whose fate after March is not yet decided.
Join Emily Lakdawalla and Casey Dreier for a chat with Jim Bell, a scientist who wears many hats. He's the team lead for the Pancam color cameras on the Spirit and Opportunity rovers; he's a member of the Curiosity science team; and he's the esteemed President of the Planetary Society's Board of Directors. We'll talk about the great science being done by both Curiosity and Opportunity, and about what's in store for the future.
While Curiosity and her team found themselves entangled in a media furor over comments, assumptions, and rumors of findings that have yet to be found, Opportunity roved on in November, finishing up the geologic survey of Matijevic Hill and setting a new mileage record along the way.
Here at station 14 we have decided to do a detailed investigation of an outcrop that is well exposed and lies within an area where there is orbital remote-sensing evidence for clay minerals. These particular rocks are interesting in that they contain a lot of thin veins and alteration zones along joints (cracks) in the outcrops.
After spending much of October driving around and taking pictures on Matijevic Hill, Opportunity hunkered down for Halloween and spent the holiday quietly, staying out of mischief's way and the Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) mission roved another month closer to its ninth anniversary of working on the surface of the Red Planet.
We on the MER Opportunity science team are currently doing 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.
On reconnaissance of Matijevic Hill, Opportunity has driven right into another Martian mystery, compete with new kinds of “berries," tiny white veins running through two distinctive outcrops of rock, and orbital data indicating that somewhere here clay minerals are hiding, all of which has put the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission back in the science spotlight and made for another September to remember at Meridiani Planum.
Welcome to my monthly survey of the activities of robots across the solar system! Tomorrow is the equinox at Mars; both Curiosity and Opportunity will be spending the month actively analyzing Martian rocks. It'll be a less active month for Cassini, as Saturn passes through solar conjunction late next month.
Opportunity stood down for nine days in early August as Curiosity landed and went through check-out, but on the tenth day the Mars Exploration Rover was back on the road, driving along the northwestern rim of Endeavour Crater and into the "sweet spot" of the clay mineral hunting ground at Cape York.
Oppy is opening an exciting new chapter in her adventure at Cape York. Having driven down to, over and past Whim Creek, she has now explored halfway down Cape York, to a promising fin-like ridge of dark rock.
It's an active time in interplanetary exploration! Curiosity has begun roving Mars, and Opportunity's not wasting any time either. Dawn has just departed Vesta and begun the more than two-year cruise to Ceres. Juno is in the middle of a big deep-space maneuver, setting up next year's Earth flyby.
I know it’s been all Curiosity, all the time on this blog for the last couple of weeks, and that’s not likely to change much for the next couple of weeks. But I don’t want people to forget that there’s another rover exploring Mars’ ancient geology. Opportunity has been taking spectacular photos of Whim Creek and Endeavour Crater this last week.
Even robots deserve a break once in a while, and when the Mars Odyssey orbiter went into safe mode in June, Opportunity got the chance to hang out and leisurely take in her surroundings at the Red Planet, while the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) mission downshifted into lower gear.
Since you last visited, Opportunity has continued to drive downhill – well, what passes for ‘downhill’ on Cape York! – and is now not far at all from the northern edge of the Cape. From where she is now she sees the Meridiani desert stretching away to the north and west, the eastern hills on her right, and the Cape itself behind her. And around her? lots and lots of Homestake-like gypsum veins.