Opportunity update: Approaching Cape Verde
Posted by Emily Lakdawalla
08-04-2008 15:43 CDT
As A. J. S. Rayl reported in her latest rover update, Opportunity is now driving toward Cape Verde, the steep cliff on Victoria crater's rim that borders the shallow ramp that the rover used to enter the crater. Cape Verde looks absolutely gorgeous from a distance, with beautiful layering. It's not clear how close Opportunity will be able to get -- the ground's tilt and shadows cast from the Cape will both decrease the power available to the rover -- but the closer it gets, the more detailed the view of those layers the rover will be able to obtain with its cameras. You can see how Opportunity is switchbacking down the slope in Eduardo Tesheiner's latest route map:The careful approach is being chronicled in detail, with more pictures, by Ryan Anderson over at Martian Chronicles (Ryan is fortunate enough to work, on and off, on the rover Pancam team). The weekend before last the rover captured the best panorama yet of the layers of Cape Verde, and it recently downlinked all the images required to build up the view. Here's a color version of the panorama constructed by James Canvin. (The wavy light and dark pattern is caused by dust accumulation on the Pancam windows.) The driving ahead looks treacherous; Opportunity has run out of bedrock to drive on. There may be bedrock just millimeters below the dust that lies ahead, but there's no way of knowing how deep it is without testing, and the slope is going to make the footing treacherous for the rover. I guess they are going to have to advance very, very carefully. This approach may be very much like the scary creep that Opportunity performed in order to cozy up to Burns Cliff in Endurance Crater. If Opportunity succeeds in nosing up to the cliff it should result in an even more spectacular panorama. I'll keep you posted as Opportunity makes progress! For comparison, here's a simulation of Opportunity exploring Cape Verde. Cape Verde is both taller and steeper than Burns Cliff, so if Opportunity gets this close we'll have a panorama that crawls up the sky almost to the zenith. That's something to look forward to!
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