Mars Rover Opportunity Image Goes Full-Circle
July 6, 2012

Mars Rover Opportunity Image Goes Full-Circle

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

NASA released a panoramic photo of the Martian surface taken by its Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity during the winter months.

The rover completed its 3,000th day on Mars on July 2, helping NASA to reach past 15 years of having a robotic presence on the Red Planet.

The space agency released a photo taken by Opportunity's panoramic camera (Pancam), showing the terrain where the explorer spent its most recent Martian winter.

NASA said the image is presented in false color to emphasize differences between materials in the scene.

The photo was compiled from 817 images taken between December 21, 2011 and May 8, 2012, during which Opportunity was stationed on an outcrop named "Greeley Haven."

Opportunity and its twin rover, Spirit landed on Mars in January 2004 for original missions that were planned to last three months. Spirit found itself stuck on Mars in late 2009, and its last communication with Earth was sent on March 22, 2010.

Although Spirit has found its final resting place on the Red Planet, Opportunity is still roaming around, firing back pictures to NASA scientists.

Opportunity's latest image released by NASA was recorded from the mast-mounted color camera located on the rover's solar arrays.

The full-circle image shows fresh rover trackers made by Opportunity, as well as an impact crater that landed on Mars billions of years ago.

"The view provides rich geologic context for the detailed chemical and mineral work that the team did at Greeley Haven over the rover's fifth Martian winter, as well as a spectacularly detailed view of the largest impact crater that we've driven to yet with either rover over the course of the mission," said lead scientist Jim Bell of Arizona State University.

The site NASA had chosen for the rover's hibernation was named after Ronald Greeley, which was a team member who taught planetary science students at Arizona State University.

"Ron Greeley was a valued colleague and friend, and this scene, with its beautiful wind-blown drifts and dunes, captures much of what Ron loved about Mars," wrote Steven Squyres of Cornell University, principal investigator for Opportunity and Spirit.

NASA's newest rover, Curiosity, is on its way to Mars, making a 352-million-mile trek from Earth to Gale Crater.