Approaching 'Greeley Haven' on Endeavour Rim
NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity used its navigation camera to capture this view of a northward-facing outcrop, "Greeley Haven," where the rover will work during its fifth Martian winter. The rover team chose this designation as a tribute to the influential planetary geologist Ronald Greeley (1939-2011), who was a member of the science team for the Mars rovers and many other interplanetary missions.
Greeley Haven provides a north-facing slope of 15 degrees or more to aid electric output from Opportunity's solar array. It also presents geological targets of interest for investigation during months of limited mobility while the rover stays on the slope.
Opportunity took this southward-looking image during the 2,790th Martian day, or sol, of the rover's mission on Mars (Nov. 29, 2011), before an approach drive to the outcrop. The site is near the northern tip of the "Cape York" segment of the western rim of Endeavour Crater. Portions of the crater's interior and far rim are visible in the background. In the subsequent three weeks, Opportunity checked properties of two specific targets on the outcrop with tools on its robotic arm and tested maneuverability on the sloping surface. After deciding that the site could serve the mission well for the next several months, the team informally named it as a memorial for Greeley, who taught generations of planetary scientists at Arizona State University until his death on Oct. 27, 2011.
Opportunity has worked through four Martian southern hemisphere winters since it landed in Jan. 24, 2004 (Universal Time; Jan. 25, PST)about 14 miles (23 kilometers) to the northwest of its current location. Closer to the equator than its twin rover, Spirit, Opportunity has not needed to stay on a sun-facing slope during the previous winters. Now, however, Opportunity's solar panels carry a thicker coating of dust than in the previous winters. Unless an unlikely wind cleans the panels in coming weeks, the team will use a strategy employed for three winters with Spirit: staying on a sun-facing slope. For several months of shortened daylight before and after the southern Mars winter solstice on March 30, 2012, the sun will pass relatively low in the northern sky from the rover's perspective, and Opportunity will stay on the north-facing slope.
Plans for research continuing through the months at Greeley Haven include a radio-science investigation of the interior of Mars, inspections of mineral compositions and textures on the outcrop, and assembly of a full-circle, color panorama of the surroundings. The planned full-circle image will be called the Greeley Panorama.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech