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Larry CrumplerApril 9, 2015

Field Report from Mars: Sol 3978 - April 3, 2015

Opportunity has been examining a bright outcrop here before getting on with the business of exploring Marathon Valley. At this location we have also acquired a couple of panoramas that should be spectacular.

Simulated view of Opportunity's location as of sol 3978

NASA / JPL-Caltech / NMMNH / Larry Crumpler

Simulated view of Opportunity's location as of sol 3978

Above is a tactical display showing Opportunity's location with respect to the features that it will be exploring in the next few weeks, including the strange Spirit of Saint Louis feature in the background. The IDD ("instrument deployment device"—in other words, "the rover arm") is shown on the outcrop "Athens" in this scene. On the upper left is the highest point on the Endeavour crater rim, where Opportunity acquired the "Tribulation Pan" many weeks ago. After that Opportunity began dropping down to this notch in the crater rim called "Marathon Valley." Once done here at the "Athens" outcrop Opportunity will head towards that knob of rock in the middle of the Spirit of Saint Louis feature, and eventually drive beyond to the entrance of Marathon Valley where things should really get interesting.

Opportunity Pancam view of odd mound of dark rocks

NASA / JPL-Caltech / Cornell / ASU

Opportunity Pancam view of odd mound of dark rocks

Above is a Pancam frame looking towards the odd mound of dark rocks located behind Opportunity in the previous image. What is it? We don't know. It looks like a remnant of a formerly broader area of resistant dark, probably basaltic, rocks. Is it younger or older than the local crater ejecta? Don't know. That is why we explore. It is also typical of the questions that a field geologist deals with. Doing field geology is like exploring another world: No one has ever "seen" what the geologist sees. The work here on Mars is no different.

That is the far rim of Endeavour crater, 22 km away, on the horizon in the distance. In today's plan we will drive a few meters to the north to look at another bit of interesting outcrop. Then we will finally start looking at the odd Spirit of Saint Louis feature.

Read more: Opportunity, mission status, Mars Exploration Rovers, Mars

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Larry Crumpler
Larry Crumpler

Research Curator Volcanology and Space Sciences/Associate Research Professor for New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science/University of New Mexico
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