Opportunity rover takes ‘Sprained Ankle’ Panorama
This June 2017 view from the Pancam on NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover shows the area just above “Perseverance Valley” on a large crater’s rim. A broad notch in the crest of the rim, at right, might have been a spillway for a fluid that carved the valley, out of sight on the other side of the rim. (Click to enlarge) Image & Caption Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ.
NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover “Opportunity” recently recorded a panoramic view before entering the “Perseverance Valley”, which descends the inner slope of Endeavour Crater’s rim. The valley is a major destination for the rover’s extended mission.
The panorama includes a broad notch in the crest of the crater’s rim, which may have functioned as a spillway where water, ice, or the Martian wind flowed over the rim and into the crater. Opportunity left wheel tracks in the vicinity of the notch as it surveyed the area and took images of the valley below for future route planning.
“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.”
This July 7, 2017, scene from the Navcam on NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover shows a view from the upper end of “Perseverance Valley” on the inner slope of Endeavour Crater’s rim. At left, the valley descends about 200 yards to the crater floor. In the middle, the crater rim extends southeastward. (Click for full view) Image & Caption Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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.
This graphic shows the route that NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity drove in its final approach to “Perseverance Valley” on the western rim of Endeavour Crater during spring 2017. Image & Caption Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona/NMMNH
Jim Sharkey is a lab assistant, writer and general science enthusiast who grew up in Enid, Oklahoma, the hometown of Skylab and Shuttle astronaut Owen K. Garriott. As a young Star Trek fan he participated in the letter-writing campaign which resulted in the space shuttle prototype being named Enterprise.
While his academic studies have ranged from psychology and archaeology to biology, he has never lost his passion for space exploration. Jim began blogging about science, science fiction and futurism in 2004.
Jim resides in the San Francisco Bay area and has attended NASA Socials for the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover landing and the NASA LADEE lunar orbiter launch.