January 30, 2008—Continuing to defy the odds, the Mars rover Opportunity marked its fourth operational year on the Martian surface last Friday.
The rover landed on Mars on January 25, 2004, and was meant to carry out a 90-day mission. Despite its age and what could have been a crippling dust storm last summer, the probe continues to send back valuable data almost 1,500 days later.
Panoramic images released by NASA last week show the so-called Lyell section of a band of light-colored rock that rings the interior of the red planet's massive Victoria Crater.
The band, which sits about 20 feet (6 meters) inside the rim, is believed to be an exposed layer of the Martian surface as it existed millions of years ago, before the impact that formed the crater.
The new view combines several images taken from inside the crater between October and December 2007. During this three-month stretch, the rover's panoramic camera sampled scenes in a variety of wavelengths of light.
Combining shots taken in different wavelengths created approximate true-color (bottom) and false-color (top) versions, which allow astronomers to see subtle features and color variations. (See the true-color and false-color images in high resolution.)
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