Field Notes from Mars:

Status Reports for MER Opportunity Rover at Endeavour Crater, Meridiani Planum


L. Crumpler, MER Science Team & New Mexico Museum of Natural History & Science

The Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is still exploring Mars.


Latest Report

Sol 3971 - March 26, 2015

Since my last post Opportunity has successfully driven from the summit of Cape Tribulation (the name we gave the highest point on the rim). The goal has been to arrive at a deep notch or valley ("Marathon Valley") in the crater rim by about March 15. Remote sensing from the orbiting Mars Reconnaissance Obiter (MRO) has shown that some spectacular exposures of weathered and altered minerals should be exposed there. That is always a clue that it is geologically very interesting in more than just minerals and chemistry. It probably means that all sorts of interesting things are going on that will give us a few more clues about the past climate on Mars.

Above is a view of the traverse along the rim of Endeavour crater since the last report. Opportunity has descended from the highest point on the rim to a deep valley cutting through the rim of the crater.

And this zooms into the current location. Notice the odd circular feature just to the north. That is the odd feature visible in the Navcam paorama below.

Along the way Opportunity stopped to look at some strange dark rocks. Using a Corps of Discovery (Lewis and Clark) naming theme during this phase, one rock, "Jean Baptiste Charbonneau", turned out to be unlike any rock we have looked at before. It plots in the intermediate volcanic rock field of chemical classification. It is purplish in color and reminds me chemically, texturally, and in color of benmoreites exposed in the volcanic field north of Mount Taylor. Maybe the Martian highlands are one giant alkali basaltic volcanic province.

Above are some of the dark rocks examined just before arrival in the valley. The one on the right is an odd  composition, more like chemically intermediate volcanic rocks on Earth than most basaltic rocks on Mars.

 Opportunity wins a marathon. As Opportunity drove into Marathon Valley on sol 3968 (March 24) it exceeded 42.195 km of total traverse, or a marathon distance, since landing on Mars.

This map shows Opprtunity's  total traverse since landing on Mars in january, 2004. AS of March 25, 2015, Opportunity has driven 42.195 kilometers across the surface of Mars. It also just fixed a flash memory problem.

Driving 42 km and lasting 11 years, which seemed impossible 10 years ago,  prompted many people to ask, "What is next for Opportunity, 100 km? Ha!" So I prepared the following "strategic plan" for accomplishing that goal in my March 25 Long Term Planning uplink report. The engineers thought it was outrageously funny. No one on the science team laughed: We have gone through this outlandish prediction sort of thing before only to discover years later that it was not so outlandish.

Here is a "strategic plan" that I posted in my LTP report this week. No one on the team laughed much!


We are now at the entrance to Marathon Valley near an odd feature named "Spirit of Saint Louis" crater. This is one of the most alien scenes yet. And the geologic questions are numerous. What is the dark rubble pile of rocks? Are they older than the crater ejecta here? Why are they inside a large circle of dark soil and surrounded by bright outcrops? What are the bright outcrops? More ejecta or something else. We will be exploring many of these questions over the next couple of weeks.

This Navcam panorama was acquired afrter arrival in Marathon Valley. The view looks like something from Mars. Wait! We are on Mars!

 Press Release Images related to Opportunity's marathon are at:

Meanwhile, back in Earth orbit, the International Space Station crew participated in our uplink process by looking at the same Navcam scene and picking Pancam targets


Above the ISS crew gathers around a couple of lap tops to view the Opportunity Navcam panorama shown above.







Archived sols


Sol 3902 - January 15
- Opportunity has departed the summit - destination now visible to the south
Sol 3894-January 7, 2015
- Opportunity has arrived at the highest elevation that it will ever be - Opportunity is now perched on the west rim of Endeavour crater
sol 3893 - January 6, 2015
? a few meters from the highest point Opportunity will ever be ? the highest outcrops are just ahead ? will be reached in next drive or two
Sol 3848 - November 20, 2014
? Opportunity finished up work at Wdowiak Ridge ? Opportunity continues climbing the rim of Endeavour crater ? The observations of comet Siding Spring were successful ? Unusual outcrops are now being studied here on the rim crest
Sol 3808 - October 10, 2014
? still climbing the rim of Endeavour crater ? working near Ulysses crater a couple of more weeks ? Opportunity about to become a comet flyby mission
Sol 3790-September 22, 2014
? Rover memory has been re-formatted ? Ascending along Wdowiak Ridge ? Opportunity has arrived an impact crater on the ridge ? The view of the surroundings is beginning to get pretty nice

Older sols..

Sol 3753 - August 15, 2014
? Opportunity is now commencing ascent of a steep crater rim segment ? Opportunity has arrived at the base of an unusual outcrop ? Approximate 200 sol journey along ?mountain ridge crest? ahead
Sol 3650 - May 2, 2014
? Opportunity continues driving south along the rim of Endeavour crater ? Now approaching next area of outcrop ? Solar panels remain very clean, cleanest since about sol 1600 ? Approaching distance driving record
Sol3623 - April 3, 2014
Opportunity is several weeks past winter solstice. Solar panels are the cleanest since 2006, we are driving south along the rim near the crest of Murray Ridge
Sol 3572 -February 10, 2014
? The NM Museum of Natural History MER 10th Anniversary Exhibit opened here on January 24 ? Opportunity is still at its "winter haven" on the crest of Murray Ridge ? Opportunity finally finished its study of the "jelly donut" rock Pinnacle Island ? Opportunity is looking now at some odd, possibly mineralized rocks
Sol 3556 - January 24, 2014
? Today is Opportunity's tenth birthday ? Opportunity is at its "winter haven" on the crest of Murray Ridge ? Opportunity is investigating the "mystery rock" Pinnacle Island ? Power is good due to panel cleaning events
Sol 3519 - December 18, 2013
- Opportunity is near summit of this part of Endeavour crater rim - the rock types that we have searched for may be in local outcrops - winter power is looking good
Sol 3494 -  November 21, 2013
- the climb continues along the crest of the crater rim - Opportunity is now very high and the view is starting to be spectacular - possible important outcrops spotted ahead
Sol 3467 - October 24, 2013
- Opportunity has begun the ascent of Solander Point - northward tilts of 15 ? or better at the end of each drive - outcrops look like impact breccias back on the crest of Cape York
Sol 3431 - September 18, 2013
- Opportunity "wades ashore" at Solander Point on September 13 - climbing Solander Point is imminent - spectacular Navcam panorama of the major geologic contact at this location
Sol 3397 - August 13, 2013
Opportunity is at the base of Solander Point. A boulder field here appears to be mostly vesicular basalt, a rock type that is not local. Shortly Opportunity will drive northwest along the scarp at the base of Solander Point.
Sol 3385 - August 2, 2013
The opportunity is less than 100m from "landfall" on Solander Point. The next drive will put Opportunity at the "shore". A "New World" is about to be explored; what strange rocks and structures will we encounter?
Sol 3378 - July 25, 2013
The Opportunity is about to finish the last observations in the plains before arrival at the next mountain, there is a short stop here to measure one last rock in the planes.
Sol 3363 - July 10, 2013
Opportunity is only a couple of hundred meters out and closing fast on the next mountain. A short side trip east is in the works to check out an anomaly in the terrain
 Sol 3355 - July 2, 2013
Opportunity has exceeded 37 kilometers of odometry, has driven up onto the next "island" of rock, "Sutherland Point" and "Nobbys Head" as of sol 3325, and is currently is only about 700 m from the goal, the mountains to the south.
Sol 3325- June 3, 2013
Opportunity has driven up onto the bench on the east side of Sutherland Point.
Sol 3317- May 24, 2013
Since sol 3308 Opportunity has been driving south, on sol 3315 Opportunity reached the end of Cape York" and is now driving in the "plains".
Sol 3310 - May 17, 2013
Opportunity finishes studies at Matijevic Hill and begins the drive south and breaks off-Earth driving distance record set by Apollo 17.
Sol 3262- March 29, 2013
Opportunity is doing one last "hurrah" here at Cape York before solar conjunction on a particularly interesting outcrop with a composition and structure unlike anything encountered before.
Sol 3237-3239 - March 4, 2013
Rover Memory Hiccup. Flash memory or computer problems oddly occurred on both Curiosity and Opportunity around Feb 27.
Sol 3220-3236 - March 1, 2013
Clean-up activities in preparation for driving south.
Sol 3219 - February 13, 2013
We sent Opportunity a few meters uphill looking for the contact and are trying to get a quick composition and microscopic image on the outcrop.
Sol 3215 - February 6, 2013
Lots of small light-colored veins crossing through the outcrops here on Matijevic Hill, and we have tried to get a handle on the composition of these veins by doing multiple offsets with the APXS. We moved north to an outcrop we called "Flack Lake" recently and did a quick look at the rocks with the MI and APXS.
Sol 3188 - January 11, 2013
Completed the bump and may have the target in the work volume....
Sol 3185 - January 9, 2013
Another New Mexico name gets used for a Mars outcrop target.
Sol 3182 - January 6, 2013
We finished up with examination of the big outcrop ("Copper Cliff") and moved to the next target over the weekend.
Sol 3153 - December 7, 2012
Traveling towards to big outcrop "Copper Cliff".
Sol 3151-3152 - December 5-6, 2012
The decision was made to drive to the outcrop to the immediate west "Copper Cliff".
Sol 3150 - December 3, 2012
Finished Outcrop Walk, Starting Detailed Examination of Outcrops, Looking for Clays
Sol 3111- October 23, 2012
An "outcrop walk" with Opportunity on the slopes of Cape York, a small residual part of the rim on the 20+ km diameter Endeavour crater, Mars.