For the overall context of Curiosity’s travels, see this post, Pinpointing Curiosity’s location in Gale Crater.
In the past week Curiosity finally left Murray Buttes and began moving south towards Mount Sharp, and, for at least one day, I thought tracking the rover’s movements might become easier. Early in the week the science team published an updated overhead traverse map that not only showed the topographical elevation contour lines for the surrounding terrain, but also included a blue line roughly indicating the rover’s future route. For reasons I do not understand, however, they only did this for one day, and then went back to the un-annotated traverse maps they had been using previously. I have therefore revised the most recent traverse map, shown on the right, to include these contour lines as well as the planned future route. The contour lines are hard to read on the full image, but below the fold on the right is a zoomed in view of Curiosity’s position as it left Murray Buttes, which shows the rover’s elevation at about 4376 meters below the peak of Mount Sharp. This means the rover has gained about 1,150 meters, or about 3,775 feet, since its landing, but only 50 meters or about 150 feet since March of this year. It is still not on the mountain but in the low foothills at its base.
The goal as they moved south this week had been to find another drill site, but it seems they had trouble picking a good spot from the innumerable flat rocks before them. The image below shows the ground ahead on Sol 1468, which on the close-up traverse image to the right is the top yellow dot. In the next two days they traversed this terrain, but couldn’t find any rocks appropriate to drill into. They now say they are going to veer to the southwest to get “in front of a small exposure of cross-bedding for contact science.”
For the overall context of Opportunity’s travels at Endeavour Crater, see this post, Opportunity’s future travels on Mars.
Since last week the Opportunity science team sent the rover due east, right to the edge of the mound that had been in the center of the Sol 4498 panorama I had created in my Sept 20th update. As it turns out, this mound was the northernmost mound in the overhead traverse image, not the middle mound as I had guessed incorrectly. Below is a cropped version of the most up-to-date overhead traverse map, annotated by me for context.
I do not know where they will send the rover next, but my best guess, indicated by the dotted yellow line, would be that they will head south and east to get as close as they can to the inside edge of the crater rim. From there they could then head south to that large outcrop, then back west into the gap to look at the dark patches of ground there. This guess is partly based on the panorama below, created from images taken on Sol 4505 by the rover’s navigation camera. The rover now sits quite close to the mound so that it can almost look down past it into the crater’s vast floor. I have indicated what I think this panorama shows on the traverse map above, which also shows that my theorized route travels directly down the center of this panorama.
I must unfortunately ask you for your financial support because I do not depend on ads and rely entirely on the generosity of readers to keep Behind the Black running. You can either make a one time donation for whatever amount you wish, or you sign up for a monthly subscription ranging from $2 to $15 through Paypal or $3 to $50 through Patreon.
Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.
Your support is even more essential to me because I not only keep this site free from advertisements, I do not use the corrupt social media companies like Google, Twitter, and Facebook to promote my work. I depend wholly on the direct support of my readers.
You can provide that support to Behind The Black with a contribution via Patreon or PayPal. To use Patreon, go to my website there and pick one of five monthly subscription amounts, or by making a one-time donation. For PayPal click one of the following buttons:
If Patreon or Paypal don't work for you, you can support Behind The Black directly by sending your donation by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman, to
Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
Cortaro, AZ 85652
Or you can donate by using Zelle through your bank. You will need to give my name and email address (found at the bottom of the "About" page). The best part of this electronic option is that no fees will be deducted! What you donate will be what I receive.