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For the overall context of Curiosity’s travels, see Pinpointing Curiosity’s location in Gale Crater.
Since my last rover update on November 14th, Curiosity moved relatively little. They drove a short distance to the southeast to a point where they wanted to drill, but have not moved from this location for the past two weeks because of drill issues.
While the engineers study the drill problem, which requires them to not move either the rover or the drill arm, the scientists have still used Curiosity to take images of the dust in the sky, to take hourly images of the dust on the ground (to see how it is changed by the wind), and to take images of nearby interesting nearby features (below the fold).
When they will move again remains up in the air. The drill issues are serious and must be understood, since there is a design flaw in the drill’s electrical system that causes intermittent short circuits and if not carefully handled could actually short out the rover’s entire electrical system and end the mission.
Not that Curiosity will never move again. There are two possibilities. The more likely one will be that they will figure out the issues now, drill the hole as originally planned, and then move on. If they fail to solve the problem, they will then forego drilling now (and maybe in the future as well), and move on immediately. Either way, expect them to head south and southeast, picking their way through the dust field, aiming for Mount Sharp.
For the overall context of Opportunity’s travels at Endeavour Crater, see Opportunity’s future travels on Mars.
My guess as to Opportunity’s future course in my November 14th update, was somewhat wrong. The image to the right has been annotated by me to show Opportunity’s travels through Sol 4569. Instead of heading south they went west to circle around the next mound, which they dubbed Pompys Tower. I have also annotated the image to show the approximate view of the panorama below, taken by Opportunity’s panoramic camera on Sol 4576. It appears the science team is carefully studying the ridge before them with possibly the intent of moving closer to it to study it better.
This very detailed Opportunity update from the Planetary Society says that their primary goal now is to drive south to the gully where they will then descend into the floor of Endeavour Crater. That gully is quite a distance south, and is likely not easily reached traveling through the rough terrain inside the rim of the crater, where Opportunity presently is. To reach it, they will probably have to find a route out of the rim to the west and skirt the rim as they move south. The panorama below however suggests otherwise, that the science team is reluctant to leave the interior of the rim, where they are finding older, more interesting geology. It suggests they are considering weaving their way south within the rim. The trip will be slower, but the data obtained more interesting.
The panorama however does reveal one problem they have traveling within the rim. This image has been rotated to show the actual slope that Opportunity is on. At 22 degrees, it is quite steep. So far the rover is handling it, helped for sure by the one-third Martian gravity. Nonetheless, it is an issue they have to face if they stay within the rim as they move south.