Last month, NASA declared that the Opportunity mission on Mars had officially come to an end, after the persistent little rover succumbed to a global dust storm. Now, the administration has released the final images sent back by Opportunity, including a 360-degree panorama of the area around what became its final resting place – a region ironically known as Perseverance Valley.
The final panorama tells quite a story. It's stitched together from 354 individual images taken by Opportunity's Panoramic Camera, which captures scenes through three different light filters – infrared, green and violet.
These images were taken last year between May 13 and June 10 – the latter being the day of that fateful dust storm. In fact, in the shot you can see evidence that Opportunity was interrupted: at the far left of the panorama are several sections still in black and white. The rover didn't get a chance to go over that area with its color filters.
The panorama shows landmarks around Perseverance Valley, where the rover came to a complete stop after almost 15 years on the Red Planet. It now sits on the inner slope of the western rim of Endurance Crater. With this shot, Opportunity is looking back – both figuratively and literally – on its long journey, with its own tracks visible in one section.
"This final panorama embodies what made our Opportunity rover such a remarkable mission of exploration and discovery," says John Callas, Opportunity project manager. "To the right of center you can see the rim of Endeavour 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. 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."
Opportunity's very last images, however, aren't quite as beautiful as the panorama. As the storm swept overhead, the rover snapped two grainy thumbnails of the sky, with the Sun visible as a tiny pale dot in the center. The final piece of data that Opportunity will ever send back to Earth is a nondescript, greyscale image of the dust-darkened sky – which was ominously incomplete.
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