A postcard from Mars: NASA rover sends stunning panorama

The image is a mosaic of more than 800 photos snapped over a six-month period.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ.
This image, released on Thursday, is composed of 817 images taken between Dec. 2011, and May 2012, by the Mars Rover Opportunity.

What’s a Mars rover to do when there’s not enough power to rove? Take pictures. LOTS of pictures! This wonderful new panoramic view of the Opportunity rover’s stopping place this past Mars winter, Greeley Haven, is composed of 817 images taken between Dec. 21, 2011, and May 8, 2012. It shows fresh rover tracks and the rim of an ancient impact crater, Endeavour, which awaits more explorations from Opportunity. You’ll want to click and see a bigger version of it here.

But to get the full effect, check out this great interactive sphere of the panorama put together by John O’Connor of the NASATech website!
The images were taken with the color camera mounted on the mast of Oppy, providing a sense of sitting on top of the rover and taking in the view. This is actually a false color image, which emphasizes the difference between the materials.

“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 Jim Bell of Arizona State University, Tempe, Pancam lead scientist.

Opportunity has recently reached a milestone: On July 2, Opportunity reached its 3,000th Martian day, or Sol. You can read a great write-up of the accomplishment at the Road to Endeavour blog by Stu Atkinson, which includes interviews of rover drivers Scott Maxwell and Paolo Bellutta.

Stu also compiled this mosaic close-up of a RAT (Rock Abrasion Tool) hole drilled by Oppy into a rock called “Grasburg.”

Opportunity has recently started to take short drives coming off the long Martian winter, and the team notes in the latest update that the rover has been benefiting from solar array dust cleaning events, which increase the daily energy production: as of Sol 3001 (July 3, 2012), the solar array energy production was 577 watt-hours. That’s great news for future drives and the longevity of the long-lived rover, which has been on Mars since 2004. Truly, Oppy is the Energizer Bunny of rovers!

Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also is the host of the NASA Lunar Science Institute podcast and works with the Astronomy Cast and 365 Days of Astronomy podcasts. Nancy is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

Connect with Nancy on Facebook | Twitter | Google + | Website

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