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TOPIC: The Opportunity rover


L

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The Mars rover Opportunity has begun its long march out of the sandy dune in which it got stuck on 25 April. Ground controllers have got it to move more than four centimetres since Friday - considered a big victory.
Ground controllers expected soil to shift from the front to the rear of the rover, but they did not expect Opportunity to move right away. They commanded the wheels to rotate 2.5 times and as they turned Opportunity crept forward by 2.8 cm.
On Sunday, Opportunity’s wheels spun another 2.5 times, moving the rover another 1.7 cm. Ground controllers aimed to move Opportunity another 2.5 wheel turns on Monday.
Opportunity is backing up the way it came and trying to retrace its tracks as closely as possible.
We believe we can certainly get out that way. We know what that terrain looks like and how it acts.” - Jim Erickson, rover project manager.
The rover has between 4 - 5 metres to go before it reaches the next dune.
Managers are still trying to decide where Opportunity will go once it is safely back on solid ground. Its goal is Erabus Crater. It could take an alternate route over rocky terrain. But what look like rocks from afar may actually be more sandy patches.
We really can’t tell the difference between a safe place to drive and a not-so-safe place to drive.”


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NASA has begun taking steps to spring the Opportunity rover from the sand trap it is stranded in on Mars.
Opportunity has been stuck in a sand dune since a drive on 26 April.
Engineers have tried simulating the conditions facing the rover on the Red Planet, to determine how best to extricate the robot from its jam.
After an external review, NASA could begin developing the first commands to send to the rover on Monday.
Opportunity is positioned across the ridge of an elongated dune or ripple of soft sand that is about one-third of a metre tall and 2.5m wide.


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"We've climbed over dozens of ripples, but this one is different in that it seems to be a little taller and to have a steeper slope, about 15 degrees on part of its face." - Mark Maimone, rover engineer.

The mission team has tried driving a test rover through manmade dunes at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory's testing facility in Pasadena, California.
The rover had no problem driving away, even when sunk belly-deep. But the test used the sand already available, which is thought to offer more traction than the finer, looser material at Opportunity's current position on Mars.
So researchers made up two tonnes of soil like that around Opportunity's wheels from play sand, diatomaceous Earth for swimming pool filters and mortar clay powder.
Experiments in this more powdery material suggest that Opportunity can drive out of the dune after some initial wheel-spinning.
Since landing more than 15 months ago, Opportunity has driven 5.4km across the surface of the Red Planet.


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This crater, one of two, found intact by the Mars rover Opportunity measure less than foot in diameter and less than one-half inch deep.
"These are the smallest craters yet observed by either rover. I think the smallest crater we saw in Gusev Crater (where Opportunity's twin, the Spirit rover, is exploring the other side of Mars) was 40 centimetres wide and that was in a hollow that had already been filled by sand and sediment… Given that these two craters haven't been covered by sand even though they are surrounded by sand ripples on a flat plain lends support to the idea that they're fairly recent. Of course, recent might mean any time from yesterday to 100 million years ago." - Matt Golombek


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Anonymous

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The Opportunity rover is stuck in a sand dune.
This occurred on the 24th April, (only now being reported in the media.)

The MER team is hopeful that they can extract the rover from the sand dune and continue with the mission.

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