Opportunity Update: Sols 1515-1516

Opportunity is still sitting on the slope of Victoria crater, doing diagnostics on her arthritic arm. I’m afraid I don’t have any pretty pictures to post today; Pancam has a light load lately. I do have some news about the arm though. I am not deeply involved in the diagnostics process, so take my updates with a grain of salt. It sounds like only one joint is acting up (as we thought). Also, based on the meeting today, it sounds like the possibility of permanently stowing the arm and giving up the use of all the instruments on it is off the table.

Some of the comments to my previous update talked about how losing all the instruments but the cameras might not be so bad because it would free up Pancam to take tons of stunning images. It is tempting to get drawn into the beautiful images from Pancam and forget that it is a scientific instrument, and is so far, one among many. We would love to take 360 panoramas everywhere we go, but those take a long time, and the rover can only do so much in a day.

Becoming a “Martian Tourist” sounds cool, but imagine how frustrating it would be to see something interesting but to have no way to learn anything about it. What would we have done with the discovery of bright soils near home plate if we only had Pancam? Not that much.

As nice as it is to have beautiful images from Mars, the vast majority are taken with a scientific goal in mind. That they are also beautiful is just an added bonus.

For now at least, it’s a moot point. It looks like we are going to try to preserve the functionality of as many instruments for as long as possible, which I think everyone can agree is the best way to go.

Explore posts in the same categories: MER, Opportunity, Uncategorized

9 Comments on “Opportunity Update: Sols 1515-1516”


  1. “Becoming a “Martian Tourist” sounds cool, but imagine how frustrating it would be to see something interesting but to have no way to learn anything about it. What would we have done with the discovery of bright soils near home plate if we only had Pancam? Not that much.”

    Agreed, totally, but, with respect, your post wasn’t written from that point of view. Its theme, as I read it, was that such a “tourist” role might be forced on the rover if things went badly. Now, no-one out here is suggesting that’s a desirable state of affairs, I know I wasn’t. I was just pointing out that if they’re the cards dealt then it wouldn’t be the end of the world, you know? What’s the alternative – switch Oppy off just because her arm instruements aren’t working? Any takers for that..? No, didn’t think so…

    “As nice as it is to have beautiful images from Mars, the vast majority are taken with a scientific goal in mind. That they are also beautiful is just an added bonus.”

    Again, agreed, but there’s no reason why – if instruments are offline, and some planning time si available – an effort could be made to take purely beautiful or artistic images. I’m not suggesting Oppy spends ALL its remaining time gawking or wandering backwards and forwards, holding up a paintbrush and squinting like a motorised Matisse, just that there would be an – ahem – opportunity to use her as a more artistic instument.

    “For now at least, it’s a moot point. It looks like we are going to try to preserve the functionality of as many instruments for as long as possible, which I think everyone can agree is the best way to go.”

    Yep. But let’s not close our minds to any ideas that don’t have “SCIENCE” stamped on them in big bold letters. Never underestimate the power of a beautiful or just a striking picture. When I give a public Outreach talk about Mars I don’t show them Powerpoint slides showing graphs of its atmospheric constituents, or charts of the composition of its soil, I show them sweeping panoramas of the interior of Victoria Crater, or the view from the top of Husband Hill. :-)

  2. Ryan Says:

    I totally agree. It would actually be liberating to be able to just drive around and be a tourist. Sort of a nice vacation for Opportunity after years of hard work. Every once in a while the rovers do have time to take “postcards” – pretty pictures for the sake of pretty pictures. They are some of my favorites. If the other instruments were gone, we would be doing a lot more of that and it would probably make the missions even more popular with the public!

    This brings up an important point though: how can scientists communicate that the spectra and plots from other instruments are exciting too? Even as a scientist, my eyes glaze over when I see too many geochemistry diagrams, but light up when I see a new Pancam mosaic. I’m not sure if we can make the other results as exciting, no matter what amazing things they are telling us, but we should try.

  3. Paul Mayoh Says:

    I would be grateful if you published any recent close up panoramas of Capo Verde that you have access to in your blog. SS talked about seeing interesting sedimentary structures in the wall of Capo Verde. Unfortunately recent home brew panoramas that I have seen of Capo Verde do not show these structures well.

  4. Ryan Says:

    We got our wrists slapped a little while back for publishing things that were not ready to be released to the press, (including stuff from this very post) so I don’t know If I can provide what you’re asking for. I’ll keep an eye out for press-ready images though…

  5. Paul Mayoh Says:

    Yes I enjoyed those “hot of the press” pictures that you are talking about. It was intesting to see how the first Capo Verde panorama that you published showed the effects of dust on the Pancam window and how in your second panorama of Capo Verde the effects of dust had been very expertly removed. It is interesting to see “work in progress” at JPL and not just the final polished results.

    I just wish that the members of the public who produce dramatic views of of the shadows on Capo Verde from the raw images concentrated instead on displaying as much information as possible in the Shadows. I guess I should invest in a copy of Photoshop or something similar and have a go myself.

    From a publicity management point of view an argument for JPL publishing a close up clear view of Capo Verde sedimentary structures ASAP is that home brew views of Capo Verde in shadow currently being circulated might be published widely in the press and the public would then be confused as to why such scientificaly uninteresting panoramas were being produced.

  6. Paul Mayoh Says:

    I was very pleased to read that it is planned to drive Opportunity to Cape Victory and then another promontory to image rock faces before driving on at high speed South of Victoria. What I would like you to ask Jim Bell if he could please take an 180 degree plus panorama for me at at least one of there locations. There is a very nice view of Straight and Madrid in the latest Pancam view of the far side of Victoria crater and it would be nice to see that view in glorious technicolor.

  7. Ryan Says:

    There needs to be a good science justification for any large panorama that the rovers take. As far as I know, the plan is to take panoramas of the cape walls to study the stratigraphy, but I don’t know how much coverage beyond that there will be. Definitely not 180+ degrees. We do keep in mind which views will be especially spectacular, but science always comes first. I doubt the team would agree to sitting in one place very long to take a pretty panorama with little added science benefit. If you can come up with a compelling science reason… then there’s a chance.

  8. Paul Mayoh Says:

    I understand that JPL have produced detailed 3D models of the high cliffs area of Victoria crater. My reason for photographing the high cliffs area of Victoria from Opportunity’s current location would be to fill in areas of these cliff faces that can only be seen from the other side of Victoria. Photographing these high cliffs from Opportunity’s two planned stops before heading South would provide the neccessary 3D data to enhance these models. I would hope that at the very least Opportunity will take a line of six monochrome PANCAM shots of the high cliffs.

  9. Paul Mayoh Says:

    I was pleased to see that some PANCAM shots were taken of the cliffs at the far side of Victoria just before Opportunity left Victoria forever. I am hoping that when all of the views of the far side come down that there will be a continuous color panorama of these cliffs.

    I have seen an interesting approach to extending small PANCAM panoramas in MARSCAT’S FLICR photosteam. The PANCAM frames at the centre of a panorama provide a detailed color view and the surrounding NAVCAM frames place the color frames in their larger context. An example of a panorama that benefits from this approach can be seen at:

    OpportunitySol1058-1060_1.png


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