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Unmanned > Mars & Missions > MER > Opportunity
Opportunity is entering a multi-year science campaign at the rim of Endeavour crater, a campaign primarily driven by the interest in clays.

Eventually this investigation will conclude. So where next? Far, far to the south lies a location identified as a go-to target for one of the MSL candidate landing sites- a series of outflow channels. With no possibility of further Mossbauer integrations and the mini-TES severely degraded, wouldn't these features be good targets for an imaging/APXS only geology investigation?

Iazu by the middle of the decade, unnamed crater south of Iazu by the end of the decade, channels by middle of the next decade...
Hey, if Oppy had gone south west rather than south east from the west most point of her trip from Victoria Crater, she would have reached Miyamoto Crater (northern rim rather indistinct), a Crater ~7 times the diameter of Endeavour. But, alas, not as interesting. I'm happy where we are.
Oh come on laugh.gif

If the pace from the last seven years is an indicator we hopefully have bootprints on Mars before we can go THAT far. Although it would be incredibly awesome if Oppy could explore a landing ellipse proposed for another mission smile.gif

Looking at the MSL landing candidate sites also makes you think how epic an image of Oppy from another vehicle would be!
Greg Hullender
Planning out the next 20 years seems a BIT ambitious. :-) Besides, I think they could spend the next 5 just exploring Endeavour.

Scott Maxwell tweeted that the first big color pan of Endeavour crater could be made during a 2 month Mossbauer integration. The last Mossbauer integration at Santa Maria crater took 2 weeks and so I think that Scott was exagerating. None the less it shows that the time taken in exploring Cape York could easily exceed 6 months.

I think that it could take 3 more years before Oppy is finished with Cape Tribulation, especially if hill climbing is planned. I therefore think that the probability of Oppy reaching the channels described in this thread is zero.
On the one hand getting to the channels described in the opening post would be a 20+ year drive on a vehicle that was warrantied for just 90 sols, but on the other the first leg of the proposed path, anti-clockwise around Endevour's rim and then on to Iazu seems like a reasonable long-term plan. After all, having been wrong so many times before, I hate to bet against Oppy now. Of course that doesn't mean that anything less than a complete survey of Capes York and Tribulation is desirable. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, as the saying goes. We have been incredibly blessed by the longevity of this mission. I am sure that I am not the only one who remembers when Victoria crater seemed impossibly far away and comforted myself by thinking that the etched terrain would make a fitting final resting place for a rover that had more than doubled her mission goals. 30 km later it seems silly but it was no more than sober assessment at the time.
I remember being worried that they wouldn't be able to complete work at Endurance before losing contact. Seems like another age now.
I think by Iazu we could safely assume that Oppy is indestructible wink.gif
QUOTE (Explorer1 @ Aug 18 2011, 04:36 PM) *
I think by Iazu we could safely assume that Oppy is indestructible wink.gif

The problem with Iazu as a target is that it's too realistic. It gives the impression of being just about doable. But if you look at the Endurance -> Victoria -> Endeavour progression it seems that each destination has been more crazily ambitious than the last. To fit the trend, Oppy's next target should be absurdly, laughably distant. Hence this thread. smile.gif
Maybe some problems of Oppy should be fixed, before we think about driving away from Endeavour?

Here is a short calculation of the cost to fix the broken hardware.
^ laugh.gif

QUOTE (MoreInput @ Aug 18 2011, 08:01 AM) *
Here is a short calculation of the cost to fix the broken hardware.
You forgot the repair rover to deliver the material to Oppy's location and effect the repairs: $500,000,000.
And I'm not sure about the cost of the radioactive material to fix up the Mössbauer. Would it make sense to wait until Oppy has arrived at the new destination? If you replace it too early, it'll just decay again before she gets there. Maybe several resupply missions along the way would be helpful.
Hilarious list, MoreInput! Like Stu (and probably a lot of people on this forum), I have often sighed at the thought that perhaps thirty seconds' worth of elbow grease and a quick clean of the solar panels by an astronaut and Spirit would have been on her way back in 2010...

This thread raises a related question (and I hope this is not considered too off-topic, administrators) - how will NASA and indeed ESA prioritise a rover/lander mission to the sites of the supposed briny water outflows in the southern hemisphere? Would this take precedence over other sites of scientific interest when the time comes to design missions for launch in the late 2010s/early 2020s?
I know this is a thread that could be politely described a fictional.....but that shopping list required a different LV. The last Delta II East Coast launch is GRAIL in 3 weeks time.
QUOTE (ilbasso @ Aug 18 2011, 10:21 AM) *
... Would it make sense....
Of course the only thing that makes sense is to build a new rover with whatever improvements you think Oppy should have and send it wherever you think Oppy should go... or somewhere better. A repair mission would be no cheaper.
Attn: Centsworth_ll Lets send another rover up there to repair Opportunity and once it's mission is done. Send the new rover to The Channels while
Opportunity drives around Endeavor or drives all the way into The Crater???
Seeing Oppy's mission continue another 8 years .... PRICELESS.
It is arguable that the life expectancy of a MER rover should be measured not in SOLs but in kilometres driven. I think for example that over the rough terrain that Spirit was driving two wheels were always going to fail when Spirit had driven 7.73 kilometres. What this means is that if hypothetically Oppy's "wheels" were to last for another 5 km then it could be anything between 1 and 8 years before Oppy becomes a stationary Lander.

There is therefore a good case for Oppy IDDing every rock in sight and not travelling more than a few meters each month. There are probably enough different rock types for Oppy to IDD around Cape York and Cape Tribulation to last the rest of the mission. I do not think that Oppy's wheels could cope with the drive to the channels no matter how much time was available.

I would be interested to know if JPL could have got more driving out of Spirit if they knew then what they know now? Presumably in retrospect they would have alternated driving directions on the trip to the Columbia Hills? Does rock climbing wear out wheels faster than driving on the flat?
PaulM, those words make good sense to me. Field discoveries usually lead to a series of new questions before the answers begin to emerge - we don't know how long a process we are embarked upon at the present site given the already-degraded condition of the instruments. Only if this location proves to be a lot less interesting than we have every reason to expect it to be would we want to consider consuming any more of the rover's uncertain life expectancy in long-distance travel. Bring up the channels issue again in two years; if we still have any mobility, maybe I'll be able to muster some enthusiasm.
I am wondering if Oppy will be cleaned by the wind before the next Winter. I read that winds have been observed in the last decade moving sand dunes on the floor of Endeavour crater between Cape Tribulation and the central peak.

I therefore wonder if Oppy should head for these dunes in a year's time if no cleaning occurs. Perhaps when Oppy has driven down the side of Cape Tribulation, sampling the clays all the way, it should carry on to the active dunes. I guess that this plan might not be "following the water". However, a live rover photographing active sand dunes is probably better than a dead rover sampling clays.
I hadn't seen that paper before - I see that it includes an "inverse polar" view of Endeavour from James! Congratulations on getting your technique recognized!
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