Author Topic: Opportunity rover updates and discussion  (Read 2434 times)

Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Opportunity rover updates and discussion
« on: 04/20/2017 08:26 AM »
We don't appear to have a current thread for updates or discussion of Opportunity's amazing on-going mission (just annual mission summary article threads).

So I thought the latest NASA update from yesterday would be a good place to start:

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NASA's Mars Rover Opportunity Leaves 'Tribulation'
19 April 2017 (source: NASA / Jet Propulsion Laboratory)

NASA's senior Mars rover, Opportunity, is departing "Cape Tribulation," a crater-rim segment it has explored since late 2014, southbound for its next destination, "Perseverance Valley."

The rover team plans observations in the valley to determine what type of fluid activity carved it billions of years ago: water, wind, or flowing debris lubricated by water.

A color panorama of a ridge called "Rocheport" provides both a parting souvenir of Cape Tribulation and also possible help for understanding the valley ahead. The view was assembled from multiple images taken by Opportunity's panoramic camera.

"The degree of erosion at Rocheport is fascinating," said Opportunity Deputy Principal Investigator Ray Arvidson, of Washington University in St. Louis. "Grooves run perpendicular to the crest line. They may have been carved by water or ice or wind. We want to see as many features like this on the way to Perseverance Valley as we can, for comparison with what we find there."

Perseverance Valley is about two football fields long. It cuts downward west to east across the western rim of Endeavour Crater. The crater is about 14 miles (22 kilometers) in diameter, with a segmented rim that exposes the oldest rocks ever investigated in place on Mars. Opportunity has less than four football fields' distance of driving to reach the top of the valley after departing Cape Tribulation, a raised segment about 3 miles (5 kilometers) long on the crater's western rim.

In 68 months since reaching Endeavour Crater, Opportunity has explored "Cape York," "Solander Point" and "Murray Ridge" before reaching Cape Tribulation about 30 months ago. "Cape Byron," the next raised segment to the south, contains Perseverance Valley and is separated from Tribulation by a gap of flatter ground.

Five drives totaling about 320 feet (98 meters) since the beginning of April have brought Opportunity to a boundary area where Cape Tribulation meets the plain surrounding the crater.

Cape Tribulation has been the site of significant events in the mission. There, in 2015, Opportunity surpassed a marathon-race distance of total driving since its 2004 landing on Mars. It climbed to the highest-elevation viewpoint it has reached on Endeavour's rim. In a region of Tribulation called "Marathon Valley," it investigated outcrops containing clay minerals that had been detected from orbit. There were some name-appropriate Tribulation experiences, as well. The rover team has coped with loss of reliability in Opportunity's non-volatile "flash" memory since 2015. With flash memory unavailable, each day's observations are lost if not radioed homeward the same day.

"From the Cape Tribulation departure point, we'll make a beeline to the head of Perseverance Valley, then turn left and drive down the full length of the valley, if we can," Arvidson said. "It's what you would do if you were an astronaut arriving at a feature like this: Start at the top, looking at the source material, then proceed down the valley, looking at deposits along the way and at the bottom."

Clues to how the valley was carved could come from the arrangement of different sizes of rocks and gravel in the deposits.

He said, "If it was a debris flow, initiated by a little water, with lots of rocks moving downhill, it should be a jumbled mess. If it was a river cutting a channel, we may see gravel bars, crossbedding, and what's call a 'fining upward' pattern of sediments, with coarsest rocks at the bottom." Another pattern that could be evidence of flowing water would be if elongated pieces of gravel in a deposited bed tend to be stacked leaning in the same direction, providing a record of the downstream flow direction.

Now more than 13 years into a mission originally scheduled to last three months on Mars, Opportunity remains unexpectedly capable of continued exploration. It has driven about four-tenths of a mile (two-thirds of a kilometer) since the start of 2017, bringing the total traverse so far to 27.6 miles (44.4 kilometers). The current season on Mars is past the period when global dust storms might arise and curtail Opportunity's solar power.

Opportunity and the next-generation Mars rover, Curiosity, as well as three active NASA Mars orbiters, and surface missions to launch in 2018 and 2020 are all part of a legacy of robotic exploration which is helping to lay the groundwork for sending humans there in the 2030s. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of Caltech in Pasadena, California, built Opportunity and manages the mission for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. For more information about Opportunity, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/rovers
http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov

https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/news/2017/04/19/nasas-mars-rover-opportunity-leaves-tribulation

Attached first image:
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Martian desert on the horizon
A grooved ridge called "Rocheport" on the rim of Mars' Endeavour Crater spans this scene from the Pancam on NASA's Mars rover Opportunity. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.

Attached second image:
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This image shows segments of the western rim of Mars' Endeavour Crater. NASA's Mars rover Opportunity has explored parts of the rim since 2011. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
« Last Edit: 04/20/2017 08:30 AM by FutureSpaceTourist »

Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: Opportunity rover updates and discussion
« Reply #1 on: 04/22/2017 11:36 PM »
Mike Seibert is the Lead Spacecraft Systems Engineer for the Mars rovers:

Quote
Mike Seibert‏ @mikeseibert
Replying to @PlanetaryKeri @avatastic

Thanks to the skill of our power subsystem engineers and careful use, Opportunity's batteries have thousands more sols of lifetime remaining

https://twitter.com/mikeseibert/status/855925314060517377

Offline FutureSpaceTourist

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Re: Opportunity rover updates and discussion
« Reply #2 on: 04/23/2017 12:43 PM »
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Approximate true-color panorama mosaic from @NASAJPL's Opportunity rover on April 21, 2017 (Sol 4707). Note the rover's tracks up the ridge.

https://twitter.com/jpmajor/status/855905494493515777

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Wow wow wow. This is one of those times in hindsight it seems amazing that we pulled off that descent

https://twitter.com/mikeseibert/status/856116618031755264

Offline Star One

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Re: Opportunity rover updates and discussion
« Reply #3 on: 05/04/2017 03:37 PM »
First aerial color photo of Mars rover’s “hole-in-one” landing site

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NASA has released the first high-resolution aerial color image of the Opportunity rover’s landing site on a sprawling Martian plain, where the airbag-cushioned robot fortuitously rolled into a Eagle Crater in January 2004, putting its scientific instruments face-to-face with a block of sedimentary rock that gave ground teams confirmation Mars was once a warmer, wetter, and habitable planet.

https://spaceflightnow.com/2017/05/03/first-aerial-color-photo-of-mars-rovers-hole-in-one-landing-site/

Offline Oersted

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Re: Opportunity rover updates and discussion
« Reply #4 on: 05/07/2017 09:27 PM »
You should think it would make sense to build quite a few more of those rovers, with just a few basic updates to solar cells, batteries and cameras, and plop them down on various locations on Mars. I cannot think it will ever be possible to make a more economical design (in view of the amazing longevity of Opportunity and to a slightly lesser extent Spirit).

Offline Blackstar

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Re: Opportunity rover updates and discussion
« Reply #5 on: 05/16/2017 03:46 AM »
You should think it would make sense to build quite a few more of those rovers, with just a few basic updates to solar cells, batteries and cameras, and plop them down on various locations on Mars. I cannot think it will ever be possible to make a more economical design (in view of the amazing longevity of Opportunity and to a slightly lesser extent Spirit).

There are problems with that idea:

First of all, what would they all do? What's the science that they would do that scientists want doing?

Second, more rovers requires more DSN time and more relays.

Third, more rovers means more science teams. Where are you going to get all those people? And you have to fund them. It's not just the machine, it's all the people that go with the machine.

Fourth, many of the vendors that built equipment for those rovers no longer exist. You would have to do a lot differently.

Finally, the MER rovers were built rather fast and with limited documentation. There was no set of complete blueprints. That was one of the things that tripped people up in later years when they wanted to propose new rovers--they couldn't do it easily or inexpensively using the MER design.

If you are going to talk about landing multiple things on Mars, a good place to start is by asking what those things would do. In the past there have been proposals for a network of seismic sensors on Mars as well as a network of meteorological sensors on Mars. InSight is a single seismic sensor because a proposal for a 3-sensor network proved too expensive. A set of meteorological sensors could fit on smaller spacecraft (Beagle 2 size), but even multiple small reentry vehicles are expensive.

Online Dalhousie

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Re: Opportunity rover updates and discussion
« Reply #6 on: 05/16/2017 04:30 AM »
Also many of the instruments could be done better, albeit often with 2020 hindsight.  The Mossbauer was not particularly useful and had a very limited working life for example.  The MiniTES was hampered by too wide a field of view, although its ability to collect mineralogy data was very valuable.  Having a separate Navcam may have been excessive redundancy.

"There is nobody who is a bigger fan of sending robots to Mars than me... But I believe firmly that the best, the most comprehensive, the most successful exploration will be done by humans" Steve Squyres

Offline Blackstar

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Re: Opportunity rover updates and discussion
« Reply #7 on: 05/16/2017 12:45 PM »
I think you identify two issues: 1-the advance of technology, and 2-hindsight. Certainly our technology is better today. It has been almost 20 years since much of that design was locked down. But as you note, getting something into the field exposes its strengths and limitations. You can figure out how to do things better.

Take the discussion in a different direction: assuming a clean-sheet rover design designed to be cheaper, could you perform valuable science with it for the cost, especially in larger numbers of rovers? Certainly you could perform valuable science, because every new place you land and explore is new, and therefore useful. But the science community is interested in answering some bigger questions, not simply adding data points.

Online Robotbeat

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Re: Opportunity rover updates and discussion
« Reply #8 on: 05/17/2017 04:03 AM »
Mike Seibert is the Lead Spacecraft Systems Engineer for the Mars rovers:

Quote
Mike Seibert‏ @mikeseibert
Replying to @PlanetaryKeri @avatastic

Thanks to the skill of our power subsystem engineers and careful use, Opportunity's batteries have thousands more sols of lifetime remaining

https://twitter.com/mikeseibert/status/855925314060517377
Dang. Might be greeted by people!
Chris  Whoever loves correction loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

To the maximum extent practicable, the Federal Government shall plan missions to accommodate the space transportation services capabilities of United States commercial providers. US law http://goo.gl/YZYNt0

Offline Blackstar

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Re: Opportunity rover updates and discussion
« Reply #9 on: 05/17/2017 07:11 PM »

Offline Blackstar

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Re: Opportunity rover updates and discussion
« Reply #10 on: 05/23/2017 07:47 PM »
Excerpt from the proposed NASA FY 2018 budget concerning Mars.

Offline Blackstar

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Re: Opportunity rover updates and discussion
« Reply #11 on: 05/24/2017 03:22 AM »
So I have not figured this all out yet, but supposedly planetary went up by ~$800 million. Half of that went to the Europa mission. Where did the rest go? What programs got the additional money?

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