Opportunity rover preparing for winter on Mars
NASA’s Opportunity Mars Rover is currently exploring around Marathon Valley where its operators are planning to keep it through the approaching Martian winter.
For several months starting in October, Opportunity will stay on the southern side of the valley to take advantage of the sun-facing slope. The site is in Mars’ southern hemisphere, so the sun is to the north during fall and winter days. Tilting the rover toward the sun increases power output from its solar panels.
“During the Martian late fall and winter seasons Opportunity will conduct its measurements and traverses on the southern side of the valley. When spring arrives the rover will return to the valley floor,” said Opportunity Deputy Principal Investigator Ray Arvidson, of Washington University in St Louis.
The shortest-daylight period of the Martian winter for Opportunity will come in January 2016.
“Our expectation is that Opportunity will be able to remain mobile through the winter,” said Mars Exploration Rover Project Manager John Callas of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.
The Marathon Valley has become a high priority destination after a concentration of clay minerals called smectites were mapped there by the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer aboard NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Smectites form under wetter, milder conditions than most rocks on Mars.