It's been a long and lonely mission on Mars for NASA's Rover Opportunity, but as the gold-sized robot reached the rim of a 14-mile-wide crater, the highlights of its finding have been captured in a three minute video complied from 309 images.
Rover planners for the mission captured a photograph of the horizon at the end of each drive over the course of a three-year trek from the Victoria crater to the Endeavour Crater on Mars. The video shows the rim of the giant endeavor crater growing larger as the robot gradually approaches through uneven, rocky terrain on the way.
The vibrations of the Rover rolling across Mars' surface make the soundtrack of the video. When the sound is louder, the rover was moving on bedrock. When the sound is softer, the rover was moving on sand, said Paolo Bellutta, a rover planner at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. Bellutta has plotted many of Opportunity's drives and coordinated production of the video.
NASA launched its Mars Exploration Rovers in 2003 in an aim to uncover the geological history of the red planet. Through the mission, scientists aim to discover and characterize a wide range of rocks and soils that hold clues to the past of the planet's water history.
Scientific Instruments carried by the Rovers:Panoramic Camera (Pancam): for determining the mineralogy, texture, and structure of the local terrain.
Miniature Thermal Emission Spectrometer (Mini-TES): for identifying promising rocks and soils for closer examination and for determining the processes that formed Martian rocks. The instrument is designed to look skyward to provide temperature profiles of the Martian atmosphere.
Mössbauer Spectrometer (MB): for close-up investigations of the mineralogy of iron-bearing rocks and soils.
Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer (APXS): for close-up analysis of the abundances of elements that make up rocks and soils.
Magnets: for collecting magnetic dust particles. The Mössbauer Spectrometer and the Alpha Particle X-ray Spectrometer are designed to analyze the particles collected and help determine the ratio of magnetic particles to non-magnetic particles. They can also analyze the composition of magnetic minerals in airborne dust and rocks that have been ground by the Rock Abrasion Tool.
Microscopic Imager (MI): for obtaining close-up, high-resolution images of rocks and soils.
Rock Abrasion Tool (RAT): for removing dusty and weathered rock surfaces and exposing fresh material for examination by instruments onboard.
Opportunity finished at the Chester Lake target at Cape York on the rim of Endeavour Crater on Oct. 6th but is on the move again according to NASA. The Space agency will launch the next-generation Mars rover, car-size Curiosity, this autumn, for arrival at Mars' Gale crater in August 2012.