Opportunity is approaching the fifth Earth-year anniversary of its landing on Mars, continuing a surface mission that was initially scheduled to last three months. The rover landed on Jan. 24, 2004 (Pacific Standard Time; Jan. 25, 2004 Universal Time). When it reached the location from which its panoramic camera (Pancam) captured this view, it had driven a total of 13,616 meters (8.46 miles) since its landing.
The view combines 276 different exposures taken with Opportunity's panoramic camera (Pancam) -- 92 pointings, with three filters at each pointing. The component images were taken during the period from the rover's 1,716th Martian day, or sol, to the mission's Sol 1719 (Nov. 21 to 24, 2008).
Opportunity has driven 1.83 kilometers (1.14 miles) since it exited Victoria Crater on Sol 1634 (Aug. 28, 2008). It skirted the west rim of Victoria and, at the point from which this panorama was taken, had reached a position about a kilometer (six-tenths of a mile) southwest of the south rim of the crater.
North is in the center of the panorama. Rover tracks are visible from the drive to the location from which the Pancam captured this view. For scale, the distance between the parallel wheel tracks is about one meter (3 feet).
Opportunity is on a 12-kilometer (7-mile) trek toward Endeavour crater [link from "Endeavor crater" to http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA11737], a crater more than 20 times the size of Victoria Crater, which Opportunity studied for about two years. On the way toward Endeavour the rover is pausing to examine selected loose rocks on the surface. At the location from which this panorama was taken, the rover used the spectrometers on its robotic arm to examine a cobble informally called "Santorini," a dark rock about 8 centimeters (3 inches) long, which the inspection indicates is probably a meteorite. The rock is too close to the rover to be visible in this panorama.
The lighter-toned patches of ground in this view are sulfate-rich bedrock. Darker patches are dark, windblown sand. The metal post in the foreground is the top of Opportunity's low-gain antenna.
Opportunity began driving again on Sol 1748 (Dec. 23, 2008).
This is an approximate true-color, red-green-blue composite panorama generated from images taken through the Pancam's 750-nanometer, 530-nanometer and 430-nanometer filters. This "natural color" view is the rover team's best estimate of what the scene would look like if we were there and able to see it with our own eyes.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell University