Opportunity rover final Mars shot, sent its last communication to Earth


Opportunity rover final Mars shot, sent its last communication to Earth.

NASA has released the final panorama taken by its Opportunity rover on Mars, a glorious last look at where the rover sent its last communication to Earth.

The panorama shows the resting place for the rover, which was declared inactive on the surface last month after NASA lost contact with it following a global Martian dust storm in 2018. This region is called Perseverance Valley, which is located on the rim of a sizeable crater called Endurance Crater.

The panorama shows the ground near the rover, while in the distance the rim of the crater can be seen rising up. Tracks from the rover can also be seen towards the rim, where the rover had gradually traveled from as it wound its way down to the crater’s floor.

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“This final panorama embodies what made our Opportunity rover such a remarkable mission of exploration and discovery,” said Opportunity project manager John Callas of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California in a statement.

In total, the image is comprised of 354 images, which were taken by the rover’s Panoramic Camera (Pancam). They were captured from May 13 to June 10 in 2018. That was the day that Opportunity last contacted Earth before the dust storm rendered it inoperative.

Such was the abrupt nature of the rover’s end that this panorama is not quite complete. To the bottom left are some frames in black and white, regions that the rover wasn’t able to image using green and violet filters to give them color. The rest of the image is composed of images in near-infrared, green, and violet wavelengths.

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NASA also released some of Opportunity’s other final photos, including its somber shot of a darkened sky as the storm rolled in. The rover’s absolute final images were two low-resolution shots of the Sun peering through the storm.

Opportunity spent nearly 15 active Earth years on the surface of Mars, having landed on January 25, 2004. It survived 5,111 Martian days (or sols) on the surface, having been designed to last for just 90. In that time it traveled more than 45 kilometers (28 miles), taking more than 217,000 images of the surface.

After the dust storm engulfed the rover it reduced sunlight to 0.002 percent of its usual level, and coated the rover’s life-essential solar powers in dust. NASA spent eight months trying to contact the rover after it had powered down to ride out the storm, but ultimately their attempts were unsuccessful. The rover never woke up after the storm abated at the end of 2018 and, on February 13, 2019, NASA ended attempts to talk to the rover and declared the mission complete.

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Opportunity leaves behind a fascinating legacy of Mars exploration, during which time it has provided us with invaluable data about how Mars was once a wet and possibly habitable environment. And this final panorama, stitched together with its last breath, gives us a view of where the rover will now spend the rest of its days on the Red Planet.


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