September 1, 2017: Opportunity Ventures Deeper into Perseverance: Along the western rim of Endeavour Crater, Opportunity forged onward in August vicariously taking the Mars Exploration Rovers team – along with a global contingent of mission observers all around Earth – downhill into Perseverance and deeper into a new chapter in this legendary expedition of the Red Planet.
“It feels great,” said MER Principal Investigator Steve Squyres, of Cornell University. “We are really now in the thick of it for the first time.”
“It’s kind of like we’ve just walked into Town Square on Main Street USA at Disneyland and haven’t yet gotten to Space Mountain or Tomorrow Land,” said MER Project Manager John Callas, of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL).
The first-ever exploration of a preserved valley system on Mars, the MER scientists’ research at Perseverance Valley promises to be among the mission’s most significant efforts. Whatever the team discovers here, it will add to our knowledge of Martian geology and to the water story of Meridiani Planum, where Opportunity has been exploring since landing in 2004. (…)
With the Martian winter to take hold soon, the team’s concern about the rover is ever-present. “Winter is our most threatening season on Mars,” reminded Callas. “Not only do you have less energy, but you actually need more energy because it’s colder and it takes more energy to keep the rover warm. And it’s damn cold,” he said.
The MER ops team has been monitoring a low temperature, recorded around 5 a.m., local Mars time, of -87 degrees Celsius [-124.6 degree Fahrenheit] and a high temp at about 1:30 in the afternoon local Mars time, of 2 degrees Celsius [35.6 degree Fahrenheit]. “That’s an almost 90-degree Celsius [194-degree Fahrenheit] temperature change in one day,” Callas pointed out.
“This winter is going to be tougher than last winter,” said MER Chief of Engineering Bill Nelson, of JPL. For starters, it will be the MER mission’s eighth Martian winter, amazing when you consider few people believed Opportunity or her twin Spirit could even survive their first winter in 2005. Moreover, both the rover and the sky are dustier than in most previous winters… [More at link]