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Old NASA rover snaps spectacular image of huge Mars crater

Having already explored the Red Planet for more than a decade, NASA's Opportunity Mars rover has recently captured a series of images of the 14-mile wide Endeavour Crater, which the space agency has stitched together into a stunning panorama.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.
This vista of the Endeavour Crater rim was acquired by NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity from the southern end of "Murray Ridge" on the western rim of the crater. It combines several exposures taken by the rover's panoramic camera (Pancam) on the 3,637th Martian day, or sol, of the mission (April 18, 2014).

The rim of a big Martian crater curves off into the distance in a gorgeous new photo taken by a long-lived NASA rover.

The image, a compilation of photos by NASA's Opportunity rover on April 18, provides a great look at the 14-mile-wide (22 kilometers) Endeavour Crater, which Opportunity has been exploring since August 2011.

"The small impact crater visible in the distance on the slopes of the far rim is about 740 feet (about 225 meters) in diameter and is 13 miles (21 kilometers) away," NASA officials wrote in a description of the image on Tuesday (May 20).

"The high peak in the distance on the right is informally named 'Cape Tribulation' and is about 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) to the south of Opportunity's position when this view was recorded," they added. "The rim curves off to the left from Cape Tribulation in a series of peaks towards the far southern crater rim."

Opportunity was at a point along Endeavour's western rim called "Murray Ridge" when it captured the new image. The six-wheeled robot has since rolled southward, reaching and exploring some of the dark outcrops visible on the right side of the photo, officials said.

Opportunity landed on Mars in January 2004, a few weeks after its twin, Spirit. The two rovers were tasked with 90-day missions to search for signs of past water activity on the Red Planet.

Both Spirit and Opportunity found plenty of such evidence, then kept exploring long after their warranties had expired. NASA declared Spirit dead in 2011, and Opportunity is still going strong today.

Opportunity has traveled 24.49 miles (39.41 km) on Mars to date, the greatest distance ever covered on the surface of another world by an American vehicle. The world record for offworld driving is held by the Soviet Union's remote-controlled Lunokhod 2 rover, which covered 26 miles (42 km) on the moon in 1973.

Follow Mike Wall on Twitter @michaeldwall and Google+. Follow us @SpacedotcomFacebook orGoogle+. Originally published on

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