30 April 2008
Opportunity is still sitting on the slope of Victoria crater, doing diagnostics on her arthritic arm. I’m afraid I don’t have any pretty pictures to post today; Pancam has a light load lately. I do have some news about the arm though. I am not deeply involved in the diagnostics process, so take my updates with a grain of salt. It sounds like only one joint is acting up (as we thought). Also, based on the meeting today, it sounds like the possibility of permanently stowing the arm and giving up the use of all the instruments on it is off the table.
Some of the comments to my previous update talked about how losing all the instruments but the cameras might not be so bad because it would free up Pancam to take tons of stunning images. It is tempting to get drawn into the beautiful images from Pancam and forget that it is a scientific instrument, and is so far, one among many. We would love to take 360 panoramas everywhere we go, but those take a long time, and the rover can only do so much in a day.
Becoming a “Martian Tourist” sounds cool, but imagine how frustrating it would be to see something interesting but to have no way to learn anything about it. What would we have done with the discovery of bright soils near home plate if we only had Pancam? Not that much.
As nice as it is to have beautiful images from Mars, the vast majority are taken with a scientific goal in mind. That they are also beautiful is just an added bonus.
For now at least, it’s a moot point. It looks like we are going to try to preserve the functionality of as many instruments for as long as possible, which I think everyone can agree is the best way to go.