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Going to Take You Higher – Mars Rover Rolls to Energy Lily Pads

NASA's Opportunity Mars robot - on a roll toward higher ground. Credit: NASA/JPL

Seeking new heights. Traverse map for NASA Opportunity Mars rover. Credit: NASA/JPL

NASA’s Opportunity rover on Mars has survived five Martian winters since it landed on the Red Planet in January 2004.

The robot is now seeking the Sun’s rays as winter approaches, doing so by ascending the northern edge of “Solander Point” at the rim of Endeavour Crater.

Opportunity is maintaining favorable northerly tilts for improved energy production as winter draws closer.

Toward the end of last month, Opportunity bumped 4.3 feet (1.3 meters) towards the outcrop called “Waratah.” Also, the rover used its robotic arm to collect a Microscopic Imager mosaic of the surface target, called “Baobab,” and then used its Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer.

Daily sunshine

Opportunity has continued the ascent up Solander heading toward another energy “lily pad,” driving about 95 feet (29 meters) nearly due south, and collecting a set of post-drive Panoramic Camera and Navigation Camera panoramas. On the following sol, the rover continued driving with a nearly 33 feet (10-meter) drive toward another energy lily pad.

Based on an analysis of the amount of dust accumulated on the rover’s solar panels, the team operating the robot plans to get Opportunity onto the north-facing slope before mid-December.

Daily sunshine for the rover will reach a winter minimum in February 2014. The team expects to keep the rover mobile through the winter.

Solander Point offers rock outcrops for the rover to continue studying through the winter months.

Total reading on the rover’s odometer is now over 24 miles (39 kilometers).

By Leonard David


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