Fantastic Voyages

2002s on the Red Planet


Mount Sharp drive

This composite image looking toward the higher regions of Mount Sharp was taken on February 2nd, 2018, by NASA's Curiosity rover. In the foreground -- beside the BMW 2002-- is a long ridge teeming with hematite, an iron oxide. Just beyond where the car is parked is an undulating plain rich in clay minerals. And just beyond that are a multitude of rounded buttes, all high in sulfate minerals. The changing mineralogy in these layers of Mount Sharp suggests a changing environment in early Mars, though all involve exposure to water billions of years ago.

The FAQ Rocky Mountain team hopes to be able to explore these diverse areas and more in the days ahead on this 2018 excursion. They're also excited to explore the historic 02 sites and artifacts, and attend this years Le Mars endurance race.

Further back in the image are striking, light-toned cliffs in rock that may have formed in drier times and now is heavily eroded by winds. Regardless of the weather —nothing beats a fun drive on the Red Planet!

Curiosity rays

A selfie on Mars, taken by NASA's Mars rover, Curiosity, on February 3rd, 2018, or Sol 1992, using its Mars Hand Lens Imager. It captures a nicely patina'd BMW 2002, which was a Le Mars entrant from the first race run 16 years ago.

Image stitched together from a series of panoramic images; Car stitched together from a series of donor parts; sky artificially extended.

Skupper Reconnaissance Orbiter (SRO)

NASA's Curiosity Mars rover recorded this amazing view of the first BMW 2002 to orbit the red planet against the sun setting at the close of the mission's 1996th Martian day, or sol, from the rover's location in Gale Crater. Believed to be from an early USSR-based 2002 excursion based on it's markings, and now called just the "Skupper", it circles the planet at an average of only666 meters above the Martian surface in the only orbit permitting such a dramatically low altitude. As would be expected, it must go significantly faster to maintain such an orbit - exceeding 0.1968 ludicrous-speed at apogee to do so.

This composite image shows the Skupper zooming by a mere 26 meters -- as indicated by the large door-mounted Mars Surface Proximity (MSP) display -- above the "Marias Pass" high-plains area where a lower and older geological unit of mudstone -- the pale zone in the center of the image -- lies in contact with an overlying geological unit of sandstone.

The scene is presented with a color adjustment that approximates white balancing, to resemble how the rocks and sand would appear under daytime lighting conditions on Earth. Dust in the Martian atmosphere has fine particles that permit blue light to penetrate the atmosphere more efficiently than longer-wavelength colors, causing the colored ionization contrails visible behind the 2002. The effect is most pronounced near sunset, when light from the sun passes through a longer path in the atmosphere than it does at mid-day.

Gale Crater panorama

Climbing "Vera Rubin Ridge" provided this BMW 2002 driver this sweeping vista of the interior and rim of Gale Crater, including much of the car's route during its first week-and-a-half on Mars and features up to about 50 miles (85 kilometers) away. The scene spans from southwest on the left to northeast on the right, taken using the owner's iPhone. It has been white-balanced so the colors of the rock materials resemble how they would appear under daytime lighting conditions on Earth.

The pic was captured on Feb. 4th, 2018, during the 4th Martian day, or sol, of the 2002's driveabout on Mars. At that point, the 2002 had gained 1,073 feet (327 meters) in elevation and driven 123 miles (197.6 kilometers) from its landing site - give or take the accuracy of the 2002's VDO odometer/altimeter.

Mount Sharp stands about 3 miles (5 kilometers) high in the middle of Gale Crater, which spans 96 miles (154 kilometers) in diameter. Vera Rubin Ridge is on the northwestern flank of lower Mount Sharp. The foreground of this panorama shows portions of lower Mount Sharp. The middle distance shows the floor of Gale Crater. Most of the horizon is formed by the crater's rim. The top of the rim is about 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) higher than the BMW2002's position. On the horizon near the center of the image is a glimpse outside of Gale Crater, to a peak about 50 miles (85 kilometers) from the car.

Turbos racing at Dingo Gap

This look back at a dune that NASA's Curiosity Mars rover previously drove across is now used as a racetrack by some BMW 2002 Turbos.

This image was taken by the rover's Mast Camera (Mastcam) during the 1994th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity's work on Mars (Feb. 5, 2018). Here the cars charge across an opening called "Dingo Gap." This view is looking eastward.

The rover had driven over the dune three days earlier, to lay out the path for this excursion’s race. For scale, the distance across each of the parallel wheel tracks is about 9 feet (2.7 meters), providing quite a narrow and challenging path for the 2002s. As can be seen in this image, the cars frequently become airborne in the Red Planet’s lower gravity.

Heidegger continues Le Mars dominance

The Heidegger BMW team triumphs in the 24 Hours LeMars yet again, captured here by the Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) camera, as the legendary BMW 2002 race car approaches the finish line after another grueling competition. The same chassis that won the Le Mans GTS class back in 1975 continued it’s dominance of thisannual red planet endurance race. The famous#91 finished 15:02 ahead of the second place finisher, the Rodenstock Schnitzer #6 car, and lapped the rest of field.

The Mars race, organized by the Automobile Club de l'Ouest (ACO), and held annually, is an extremely challenging one in which racing teams must balance the demands of speed with the cars' ability to run for 24 hours across the planet’s surface while remaining free of crippling mechanical failure. The brutality of this Martian race can be readily understood by comparing the list of teams who set off from the start line against the roster of 2002s that survive for the full duration.

This scene captures NASA's Curiosity Mars rover at a location called "Windjana," where the Le Mars racers shoot past, and where the rover recently found rocks containing manganese-oxide minerals, which require abundant water and strongly oxidizing conditions to form. In front of the rover are two holes from the rover's sample-collection drill and several dark-toned features that have been cleared of dust. These flat features are erosion-resistant fracture fills containing manganese oxides. The discovery of these materials suggests the Martian atmosphere might once have contained higher abundances of free oxygen than it does now.

Since 2002, the 24 Hours of Le Mars has been a part of the FIA Galactic Endurance Championship.

Farewell at Ireson Hill

This year’s BMW 2002 excursion comes to a conclusion after an amazing week driving on the red planet and watching the Mars races. It was time to prepare the cars for the extended trip home on the Falcon Heavy III - but before that most everyone was able to assemble for one last group photo. Every 02er that made this year’s 2002 road trip expressed their appreciation as the Curiosity rover proved to be invaluable again for all the logistics support, photos and Martian hospitality.

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