Opportunity Front Hazcam image taken on Sol 4616.
Credit: NASA/JPL


Two NASA rovers are busily working on the Red Planet – Opportunity and the Curiosity robots.

“Opportunity is mainly traversing uphill to the southwest on Cape Tribulation, trying to get back to the Meridiani Plains to head south to Cape Byron and the top of a gully system before the end of the southern summer.”

That’s the word from Ray Arvidson of Washington University in Saint Louis. He is deputy principal investigator of the rover mission.

Opportunity Navigation Camera image taken on Sol 4616.
Credit: NASA/JPL


Steady progress

Opportunity’s health is steady, Arvidson told Inside Outer Space, although climbing 15 to 20 degree slopes is difficult, he said.

“But steady progress is being made. We are characterizing the Shoemaker formation impact breccia outcrops along the climb uphill,” Arvidson said.

The robot airbag bounced to full stop in Meridiani Planum on January 25, 2004.

As of Sol 4609 (Jan. 10, 2017), the rover’s total odometry was 27.20 miles (43.77 kilometers).

“Frost Pond” can be seen in the middle of this image. Photo taken by Curiosity Navcam Left B Sol 1583, January 18, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech



Frost Pond

Elsewhere on Mars, the Curiosity rover is also at work, performing Sol 1584 duties.

On Sol 1583 Curiosity drove 52 feet (16 meters), a trek that set up touch-and-go contact science.

As scripted, the plan for the Mars robot is to start with a short Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS) integration on the target “Frost Pond.”

Curiosity Mastcam Right image taken on Sol 1580, January 15, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

The intent is to investigate the chemistry of a typical Murray bedrock block, reports Lauren Edgar, a research geologist at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona. Then the plan calls for a full suite of Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) images to be taken on the same target.

Search for dust devils

Later in the plan is acquiring a Chemistry& Camera (ChemCam) observation of “Frost Pond” for comparison, and also taking a Mastcam image for documentation.

Curiosity Navcam Left B, Sol 1583 January 18, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“We’ll also acquire a small Mastcam mosaic of “Burnt Brook” to investigate some color variations and a Navcam observation to search for dust devils,” Edgar adds.

Curiosity Mastcam Right image taken on Sol 1580, January 15, 2017.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

“After another drive, we’ll take post-drive imaging for targeting. Later in the afternoon we’ll use Mastcam to monitor the movement of fines on the rover deck and take a systematic clast survey,” and ChemCam will take another Autonomous Exploration for Gathering Increased Science (AEGIS) observation, Edgar concludes.

Dates of planned rover activities are subject to change due to a variety of factors related to the Martian environment, communication relays and rover status.

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