NASA has released one of the final photos taken by the Mars Opportunity rover before it went silent and perished in a planet-wide dust storm in June.
The image showed what would become the 15-year-old explorer's final resting place, Perseverance Valley. The panorama shot, according to NASA, was taken over 29 days from May 13 to June 10, 2018.
"This final panorama embodies what made our Opportunity rover such a remarkable mission of exploration and discovery," stated John Callas, the project manager behind Opportunity.
Opportunity's Final Gift
Opportunity arrived at Perseverance Valley, a system of shallows within the inner slope of the Endurance Crater, in July 2018. Scientists wanted to explore the area because they believe that the gully was carved billions of years ago by ancient flowing water. The mission of the rover was intended to extend into the interior of the Endeavor Crater, an area that has never been explored before.
"To the right of center you can see the rim of Endeavor Crater rising in the distance," pointed Callas. "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."
The image, shown in full on NASA's website, was taken using the rover's Panoramic Camera (PanCam). It is made up of 354 individual images through three different filters.
NASA explained that parts of the photo remained in black and white because Opportunity hadn't had enough time to record the locations using the green and violet filters before the dust storm engulfed the red planet, preventing the rover from charging its solar-powered batteries.
Opportunity's Mars Mission Complete After 15 Years
Opportunity, with its twin Spirit, arrived on Mars in 2004 to look for evidence that water once flowed in the now-barren terrain of Mars. The explorer broke records by becoming the longest-running rover on Mars, surviving the Red Planet's harsh environment for 15 years.
However, in June 2018, it finally yielded. Mars was engulfed in a planet-wide dust storm that covered the sky in a haze, preventing sunlight from reaching the surface and the solar-powered rover.