Tech & Science

NASA Opportunity's Last Image: Beautiful Panorama Reveals Mars Rover's Final Resting Place

In February, NASA announced that its pioneering Opportunity rover had died after nearly 15 years of exploring the Martian surface, marking the end of a mission which has significantly broadened our understanding of the Red Planet.

Before “Oppy” finally kicked the bucket—the rover succumbed to a severe global dust storm in June 2018—it managed to beam back one last parting gift to Earth which the space agency has now released: a spectacular 360-degree panorama of what turned out to be the vehicle’s final resting place.

Aptly enough, the image was taken in an area known as Perseverance Valley, located on the inner slope of the western rim of Endeavour Crater. The valley is made up of several shallow troughs which descend eastward from the top of the crater’s rim to its floor, according to NASA.

The panorama was created from 354 individual images taken over a 29-day period last spring using three different filters on the rover’s Panoramic Camera (Pancam.) Several features of the surrounding area can be seen, as well as some tracks that the rover left before it came to its final resting place.

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

"To the right of center, you can see the rim of Endeavor Crater rising in the distance. Just to the left of that, rover tracks begin their descent from over the horizon and weave their way down to geologic features that our scientists wanted to examine up close,” he said. “And to the far right and left are the bottom of Perseverance Valley and the floor of Endeavour crater, pristine and unexplored, waiting for visits from future explorers."

Some of the frames in the panorama are not colored. This is because Oppy did not have time to image those frames with color filters before the devastating dust storm struck.

This storm—which blanketed the entire planet—caused NASA to lose contact with the solar-powered rover. Since its last communication on June 10, 2018 operators sent more than a thousand commands to try and restore communications, but in February, NASA declared the mission over.

Opportunity was only planned to last 90 days after landing on the Martian surface in January 2004, but it went on to surpass all expectations. In a decade-and-a-half on Mars, the rover provided numerous fascinating insights into the planet’s geology and environment, travelling a total of 28 miles over its rugged terrain in the process.

Mars panorama, Opportunity rover, Perseverance Valley This 360-degree panorama is composed of 354 images taken by the Opportunity rover's Panoramic Camera (Pancam) from May 13 through June 10, 2018, or sols (Martian days) 5,084 through 5,111. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/ASU

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