“It is a tantalizing scene,” said Opportunity Deputy Principal Investigator Ray Arvidson of Washington University in St. Louis. “You can see what appear to be channels lined by boulders, and the putative spillway at the top of Perseverance Valley. We have not ruled out any of the possibilities of water, ice or wind being responsible.”
The component images of the scene were taken by Opportunity’s panoramic camera (Pancam) during a two-week driving moratorium in June 2017 while the rover team diagnosed a stall in the left-front wheel’s steering actuator. The wheel was stuck pointed outward more than 30 degrees, prompting the team to call the resulting scene Pancam’s “Sprained Ankle” panorama.
The rover team was able to turn the wheel to point straight ahead, and now the rover only uses its rear wheels to steer. The steering actuator of the right-front wheel has disabled since 2006. Since landing on Mars in 2006, Opportunity has driven 27.95 miles (44.97 kilometers).
On July 7, 2017, Opportunity drove to a site in upper Perseverance Valley where it will spend about three weeks not driving while Mars’ passes nearly behind the Sun from Earth’s perspective, affecting radio communications. Opportunity is using Pancam to record another scenic vista from its current location. Once full communications resume in early August, the team plans to drive Opportunity farther down Perseverance Valley in order to learn more about the process that carved it.