Panoramic snap from Mars Rover shows quite the view

26 Jan 2015

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NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ

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After 11 years on Mars, US space agency NASA’s exploration rover ‘Opportunity’ has just sent us back a pretty cool photo from its highest peak.

Having driven almost 26 miles since landing on Mars back in 2004, this image comes from the highest point that Opportunity has been at, named Cape Tribulation.

Having started exploring Endeavour’s western rim in 2011, Opportunity has risen from Botany Bay – a low rim that it crossed in mid-2013 – about 440 feet to reach the top.

The image shows the interior of the 14-mile-wide crater, extending to include the rim of another crater on the horizon.

Mars panoramic

The full panoramic view from top of Cape Tribulation. Via NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.

Originally, Endeavour was billed to be operational for just three months, but 11 years later it’s still going strong providing evidence about wet environments on Mars.

Fly my pretties, fly!

However clearly the distance of two miles a year covered by Opportunity is not enough to sate the appetite of NASA’s scientists, with hopes of drone helicopters being able to take up the slack.

“Getting around on Mars is tricky business,” says NASA’s jet propulsion laboratory. “To have a better sense of where to go and what's worth studying on Mars, it could be useful to have a low-flying scout.”

The ‘Mars Helicopter’ is a project being proposed that would see a fairly brilliant looking small craft help out Opportunity by flying ahead, checking out where it should investigate and helping engineers at NASA to plan the best driving route.

Mars helicopter drone

Graphic of a proposed Mars helicopter, via www.jplnasa.gov

The envisioned space vehicle would weigh just 1kg, measure just over a metre, looking “like a medium-size cubic tissue box”.

The current design is a proof-of-concept technology demonstration that has been tested at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

Gordon Hunt is senior communications and context executive at NDRC. He previously worked as a journalist with Silicon Republic.

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