Newly released NASA photo provides breathtaking view of red planet

Newly released NASA photo provides breathtaking view of red planet

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Ever wondered what it would be like to live on Mars? A statement from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology features a breathtaking panoramic view of an impact crater on Mars, a view some scientists are calling “spectatular.”

The picture, detailed enough to show the tracks from NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, depicts the windswept terrain of a Martian winter.

The picture shows the view from on top of the rover, Opportunity, including its solar arrays and deck. According to the release, “Opportunity and its twin, Spirit, landed on Mars in January 2004 for missions originally planned to last for three months.”

Opportunity completed its 3,000 Martian day this July, continuing NASA’s 15 years on Mars—from the Pathfinder landing in 1997, to the Global Surveyor’s orbit, to present day missions involving Opportunity. The article mentions NASA’s next generation rover, Curiosity, is on course for a Mars landing later this month.

The view was compiled from 817 component images taken between December 21st 2011 and May 8, 2012 while Opportunity was stationed “near the northern tip of the Cape York segment of the western rim of the Endeavour Crater.” The photo shows endless miles of earthy landscape in every direction under a hazy Martian sky, with the northern view in the center and the southern at either end. False color was added in order to emphasize contrast in the materials shown in the panorama.

According to the caption, the outcrop to the far left along the horizon was informally named “Rich Morris Hill” in memory of aerospace engineer, musician, and Mars rover team member John R. “Rich” Morris (1973-2011). The caption also refers to the bright, dusty deposit in the center of the image as a dust patch known as the “North Pole,” investigated in May 2012 as an example of wind-blown Martian dust. “The interior of Endeavor Crater can be seen just below the horizon in the right half of the scene, to the northeast and east of Cape York. The crater spans 14 miles (22 kilometers) in diameter.”

In addition to compiling stunning views, Opportunity has provided radio-science information integral to the understanding of the planet’s “spin axis dynamics and thus internal structures,” as well as conducting examinations of immediate landmarks, such as “an impact-jumbled rock formation on the crater rim.”

Opportunity’s team named the campaign site shown in the photograph Greeley Haven, after team member and professor Ronald Greeley (1939-2011) of Arizona State University. Principal investigator for rovers Opportunity and Spirit, Steve Squyres of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York said, “Ron Greeley was a valued colleague and friend, and this scene, with its beautiful wind-blown drifts and dunes, captures much of what Ron loved about Mars.”

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