Opportunity’s steep downhill path

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An update on Opportunity: The panorama I have created below from two images taken by its navigation camera and transmitted from Opportunity today, shows the steepness of the slope in Lewis and Clark Gap down which engineers are thinking of sending Opportunity. It appears also that Opportunity has moved closer to the gap since my post on Friday outlining the rover’s future travels.

I have not followed Opportunity’s entire journey on Mars close enough to say whether this will be the steepest downhill slope the rover has ever attempted. If not I suspect it is close to the steepest. I also suspect that they are still unsure whether they are going to attempt it, and are creeping slowly towards it to assess the situation.

Lewis and Clark Gap within Endeavour Crater's rim


  • Localfluff

    An opportunity to hurry up a bit, with extra gravity pull as assistant. Not that gravity is so heavy there anyway. But examining a relatively steep slope should be interesting since its surface must’ve formed a bit differently. If not geologically, then by how it has collected or lost dust or how it has eroded differently because of the tilt. I think that the slope itself is worth the challenge, also as a technology demonstrator. RSLs and flowing water overall will be found on slopes. This could be a good training for a future rover design.

  • BSJ

    Is it truly as steep as it appears?

    The camera/rover could be tilted and the horizon may not be horizontal. They aren’t driving around a parking lot, after all…

  • BSJ: The horizon is the clue. In this image, unlike others, the horizon is generally horizontal, which suggests that the image is also showing us with reasonably accuracy the tilt of the slope.

  • BSJ

    So, your saying they found a perfectly level spot to park the rover, just so they could snap a picture. Without telemetry data you’re just guessing!

    The horizon could just be another inclined slope. Without “human scale” objects like trees or structures in the image, the apparent distance can be quite deceiving.

  • BSJ: Your are completely right, I am guessing, though I think it is an educated guess. The horizon appears to me to be the opposite crater rim 14 miles away, which will be generally level.

    But you are right, this is a guess.

  • PeterF

    The slope on Earth could be considered rather steep and an attempt to descend could trigger landslides, but in the lower gravity of mars the angle of repose would be much greater and this slope is much more “gentle” than our Earth trained senses would have us believe.

  • Localfluff

    Maybe it’d be a good thing to cause a landslide. Let it skid and see how much of an avalanche it causes, and what that reveals from the underground uncovered.

    Instead of a one inch drill, Mars rovers should carry a set of explosive devices planted and set off at safe distances (behind a ridge). The plumes watched by satellites and rover cams and then approached to be chemically investigated by sampling. Explosives have a much bigger role to play in the planetary exploration than they are given today. They were important during the Apollo program.

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