I have decided to continue my Mars rover updates, and make them a regular mid-week feature here on Behind the Black. This is the first.
For the overall context of Curiosity’s travels, see this post, Pinpointing Curiosity’s location in Gale Crater.
Since my last updates here and here, Curiosity has moved south through the gap between buttes to exit the Murray Butte area. The initial slopes of Mount Sharp lie ahead, an open road with no apparent rough terrain to slow travel.
Doing science however does slow travel, and for good reason. Once through the gap the science team decided to swung the rover west and up against the base of the gap’s western butte, rather than immediately head south to climb the mountain. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter image below, cropped and reduced, illustrates this path.
Here they will drill to collect and analyze a rock sample. The image to the right, cropped and reduced, looks back at the gap, with the rim of Gale Crater visible faintly in the far background beyond. I have also indicated the approximate area viewed in this image in the traverse map above. The image below, also reduced and cropped, shows the base of this butte, with their planned drill site indicated.
For the overall context of Opportunity’s travels at Endeavour Crater, see this post, Opportunity’s future travels on Mars.
Since my last update here, Opportunity has moved down through Lewis & Clark Gap. The traverse map below, cropped, illustrates the rover’s position as of Sol 1485. Below that is a panorama, assembled by me from images taken six Martian days later, on Sol 1491, that I think looks southeast into Endeavour Crater. I have indicated my guess as to the view of this panorama on the traverse map.
Based on these images, it appears that though the rover is through the gap, it is still sitting on a considerable slope. Whether they head to the southeast and down or turn west remains unknown. I suspect that the science team will end up doing a bit of both, in an effort to gather as much information as they can while they explore as much territory as they can.
From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.
He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.
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