The Mars Rover Opportunity keeps on exploring Perseverance Valley despite new wheel problems

Perseverance Valley (Image NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ.)
Perseverance Valley (Image NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ.)

NASA’s Mars Rover Opportunity is working in an ancient valley on the edge of Endeavour Endeavour’s rim called “Perseverance Valley” examining rocks and driving around the area to carry out a survey of the place. According to plans, once these tasks are completed Opportunity will go down to the lower part of the valley but the maneuver will have to be even more cautious than expected due to a problem encountered in one of the wheels’ steering system.

Arrived at the entrance of Perseverance Valley at the beginning of May 2017, during that month the Mars Rover Opportunity began its activities related to scientific research on that valley’s origin. Its survey helps find the most interesting places to study and the rocks that are being examined can contain the information needed to discover the mysteries scientists are interested in. In the specific case, the hope is to find signs indicating whether the rocks were transported by floods or they were eroded by winds.

During its work, the Mars Rover Opportunity has taken various photos of the area with its Panoramic Camera (Pancam). NASA has assembled yet another Martian landscape using a series of photos showing a strip crossing the upper half aligned with dark rocks, particularly on the far side.

One possibility is that it was a channel that a few billion years ago ended in a lake at the edge of Endeavour Crater. Another hypothesis is that it’s a linear scheme of stacks of rocks connected to a radial fracture caused by the impact that created the crater.

This stage of the Mars Rover Opportunity’s very long mission is made more difficult by a new wheel problem. The right front wheel’s steering system failed in 2005, on June 4 the left front wheel’s steering system got stuck too. This time the problem was temporary and on June 17 it was possible to restore the wheel’s full functionality but Opportunity is using the rear wheels to steer.

For this reason, the Opportunity mission team is checking more carefully than ever the photos of Perseverance Valley taken by the rover to determine its route. The road is downhill but that doesn’t mean that it’s easier to travel and if there are problems at the mission control center they will be see them with a delay due to the time that radio signals take to reach the Earth.

Nevertheless, the Mars Rover Opportunity continues to explore an area of ​​the planet Mars that can provide more information on the red planet’s history. After more than 13 Earth years, at NASA they’re aware that Opportunity’s mission will sooner or later end even if this extraordinary robot seems to be really indestructible but it will wear out due to a useful job for scientific research.

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