Saturday, 23 March, 2019

Here's What NASA's Opportunity Rover Saw Before 'Lights Out'

NASA's Mars rover Opportunity leaves us with one final, glorious panorama NASA Opportunity rover’s last panorama shows its final resting place
Cary Marshall | 14 March, 2019, 20:38

Over almost 15 years, it traversed more than 28 miles of Red Planet before ultimately meeting its end during a planet-wide snowstorm last June.

In the photo you can see portions of the Mars rover's solar panel and low-gain antennae - possibly the last ever image of Opportunity humans will ever see again.

The sprawling, 360-degree panorama above - which is composed of 354 individual shots captured by Opportunity's Panoramic Camera (Pancam) between May 13 and June 10, 2018 - shows a whole host of intriguing features near a site fittingly named Perseverance Valley.

The trailblazing mission ended after almost 15 years of exploring the surface of Mars, but its legacy will live on. NASA says the black and white frames at the bottom left of the image are that way because the rover did not have time to finish the panorama before it died.

This final panorama embodies what made our Opportunity rover such a remarkable mission of exploration and discovery. It shows a number of interesting features of Perseverance Valley, in addition to the pristine, unexplored floor of Endurance Crater.

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If you look at the raw images that came from Opportunity, you'll notice that they're all black-and-white. NASA hoped the rover would survive its 90-sols (Martian days) mission but to the surprise of everyone, it lasted 55 times longer than its designed lifespan (more than 14 years).

The filters admit light centered on wavelengths of 753 nanometers (near-infrared), 535 nanometers (green) and 432 nanometers (violet). After more than half a year of silence and more than one thousand attempts at making contact, however, the space agency eventually declared Opportunity's mission over on February 13, 2019. But the echoes of the rover's mission to the Red Planet can still be heard.

Opportunity was part of the Mars Exploration Rovers program that called for two identical machines to be sent to Mars.

Opportunity and its twin, Spirit, landed a few weeks apart in January 2004.

It survived a bad dust storm in 2007 and is now being closely watched to see if it can survive a massive storm that has an estimated opacity level of 10.8, a sharp increase from the earlier storm's 5.5 tau.

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