Opportunity Sent Back One Final Stunning Mars Panorama Before Going Offline Forever


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The Opportunity rover has gone to a better place — Mars. Then about 15 years after reaching Mars, it shut down for good in the midst of a planet-wide dust storm. Before the plucky little rover passed on, it beamed back one final gift to the people of Earth: an awe-inspiring panorama of Perseverance Valley.

Opportunity headed into Perseverance Valley near the end of its run on Mars. The rover was only supposed to last a few months on the red planet, but it rolled into Perseverance Valley more than 4,000 Martian days later. NASA wanted to explore the western rim of Endeavour crater, but Opportunity didn’t complete that mission.

The massive dust storm engulfed the rover in June of 2019, blocking light from its solar panels. NASA got just one ping from the robot after placing it into power conservation mode. All future attempts to contact Opportunity were met with silence. Just prior to the dust storm, Opportunity began snapping photos of what would become its final resting place. The panorama above consists of 354 individual frames captured between May 13 and June 10.

Dead center in the panorama is the path Opportunity took as it entered Perseverance Valley. To the right, you can see some rover tracks and a small hill on the edge of the crater rim. On the left, the panorama caught some tabular rock formations.

NASA has a zoomable version of the full image (above, and click the full-screen icon in the top right) if you want to get a better look at the details. The images come from three different filters on the rover’s Pancam unit: 753 nanometers (near-infrared), 535 nanometers (green) and 432 nanometers (violet). You might notice a few frames in the bottom left are monochrome. That’s because the rover didn’t have enough time to capture green and violet views of that area before the dust storm blotted out the sun.

What you’re looking at is the final resting place of Opportunity. It’s gone but not forgotten. NASA’s Curiosity rover built on the success of Opportunity, and it survived the dust storm thanks to its radio-thermal power source. NASA’s next Mars rover (currently just known as Mars 2020) will use a similar design with new instruments geared toward searching for signs of life on the red planet. We can only hope it will be as successful as Opportunity.

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