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Columbia Hills and Gusev Crater in 3-D
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"Columbia Hills" and Gusev Crater in 3-D

December 30, 2005

NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit obtained this stereo panorama of the surrounding Martian terrain in Gusev Crater from two positions about 10 meters (33 feet) apart. This is much greater separation than the 30-centimeter (11.8-inch) distance between the left and right "eyes" of the panoramic camera. The effect of increasing the separation distance of a stereo image is to greatly increase the apparent (visual) depth, allowing scientists and engineers to see details in terrain that are too far away for the standard baseline. Stereo images such as these enable planetary scientists to derive detailed information about slopes and topography, map the terrain, and select routes for the rover. Spirit is now descending from "Haskin Ridge," on the left, down the slopes of "Husband Hill" toward the "Inner Basin," a low region between Husband Hill and "McCool Hill" to the south. Scientists speculate that, on the way, Spirit may drive over successive rock layers or deeper exposures of the bedrock in the "Columbia Hills." They hope to reach the conspicuous circular feature (just to the right of the center of the image), nicknamed "Home Plate," before the Martian winter, in search of layered rock outcrops that may provide additional information about the geology of the Columbia Hills.

Current long-range plans are for Spirit to cross the lowest part of the basin and approach Home Plate within 50 to 60 Martian days, or sols. After investigating Home Plate, mission planners will possibly direct Spirit to the sunny, north-facing slopes of McCool Hill, placing the rover in view of the sun as it sinks lower toward the northern horizon. This would put the rover in position to soak up enough rays of solar energy to continue operating through the coming southern-hemisphere winter on Mars.

It took seven days, from sols 591 to 597 (Sept. 1 to Sept. 7, 2005) of its exploration of Mars, for Spirit's panoramic camera to acquire all the images combined into this mosaic. This panorama covers a field of view just under 180 degrees from left to right. This stereo view is presented in a cylindrical-perspective projection with geometric seam correction. The stereo image may be viewed with standard blue and red 3-D glasses.



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