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My favourite rover picture that never was…

I wonder how many images Spirit and Opportunity have returned in the past 5 years… must be tens of thousands, of not hundreds of thousands. I’ve tried again and again to pick out my favouries, and narrow the list down to say, a dozen, but it’s an impossible task, there’s always another to add to the list… and another… and another…!

But I do have a few favourite images that were never taken – you know, ideas for pictures that I think would have made fantastic shots, photo opportunities that presented themselves but were passed up. (It’s a photographer thing, I reckon. We’re never happy, we can always think of a way we’dhave done it better, or at least differently. Never satisfied, see… 🙂 )

My favourite “picture that never was” is a self-portrait of Oppy that she could… possibly… perhaps… maybe… have taken as she rolled around the edge of Endurance Crater, some 350 days after landing on Mars. You’ll remember that Endurance was the biggest crater Oppy explored before she reached Victoria; she trundled down into it and studied some fascinating rocks on its slopes (the fossilised-brain-like Wopmay being the most interesting) before driving up to the steep wall of “Burns Cliff” on the other side and then coming out again. When she came out she made her way over to what was left of her own “backshell” which had landed close to the crater, bounced, and then come to a crumpling stop on the rocky plain a few metres from the crater’s edge. This is what the backshell looked like…

sol335b_heatshield

Now, click on the image above to bring up the full size version and you’ll see it’s surrounded by ten kinds of garbage – springs, chunks of metal, foil scraps, you name it, it’s there. It looks like a junkyard…

… which maybe explains why the rover team didn’t do what I wanted them to do – drive Oppy up to the highly-reflective backshell and take a picture of its own reflection: a self-portrait.

How cool would that have been?!?! A picture of a Mars rover taken BY a Mars rover! Okay, so it would have been a bit distorted, and blurry, but still, what a picture it would have been. A killer image to be sure. I remember thinking at the time “Go on, take the picture, it’ll be amazing! It’ll be EVERYWHERE!”, and being very frustrated and disappointed when they didn’t.

But I can understand why they didn’t risk it. If I was in charge of a mega-expensive Mars rover, just 350 days into its mission, I wouldn’t have been too keen to drive it into a veritable minefield of bits of metal that could have got stuck in its wheels, snagged cables or worse. No, they absolutely did the right thing.

But still… all these years later I can’t help wondering what that picture would have turned out like… Maybe something like this…

should-have-taken1

🙂

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