OPPORTUNITY UPDATE: Slow Going Due to Communication Issues - sols 2975-2980, June 06-11, 2012:
Opportunity has been investigating light-toned veins around the north end of Cape York on the rim of Endeavour Crater.
Recently, things became complicated, first by Mars Odyssey orbiter going into safe mode, leaving Opportunity without timely relay support, and then by a missed Ultra High Frequency (UHF) relay pass with Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on Sol 2976 (June 7, 2012). The project responded to the missed UHF pass by sending real-time commands to the rover on Sol 2977 (June 8, 2012), to elicit a response to make sure Opportunity was okay.
Further, the project asked MRO to change the data rate on the next relay pass to ensure lock-up under poor Signal to Noise Ratio conditions. The missed relay pass was likely the result of poor relay geometry between the orbiter and rover. With Odyssey unavailable for relay support for a number of days, the MER project converted several future rover Deep Space Network tracking passes from "Direct from Earth" to "Direct to Earth" to return some telemetry directly over the rover's X-band system.
The plans forward for Opportunity have been modest, mostly remote sensing, owing to the lack of relay support from Odyssey. A bump of the rover was sequenced for Sol 2981 (June 12, 2012). This will be followed by a MRO UHF relay pass to return the drive results.
As of Sol 2977 (June 8, 2012), solar array energy production was 388 watt-hours with an atmospheric opacity (Tau) of 0.338 and a solar array dust factor of 0.567.
Total odometry is 21.42 (34,469.86 meters).