Even though we bid farewell to the intrepid Opportunity rover in February at the conclusion of its 15-year mission, it still had one last gift to give.
Last May, Opportunity took a look around Perseverance Valley on the inner slope of Endurance Crater’s western rim. The valley is about the length of two football fields and it’s full of descending shallow troughs.
Ironically, Perseverance Valley became Opportunity’s final resting place when a planet-encircling dust storm took over Mars in June, blocking the sun from reaching the rover’s solar panels. Engineers lost contact on June 10 and persistently sent more than a thousand signals and commands to the rover over eight months until they realized the mission was over on February 13.
But before those dark days, Opportunity acted like a tourist, snapping 354 photos between May 13 and June 10 that would create one last beautiful panorama of the place it will forever call home.
“This final panorama embodies what made our Opportunity rover such a remarkable mission of exploration and discovery,” said Opportunity project manager John Callas of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “To the right of center you can see the rim of Endeavour Crater rising in the distance. 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.”
Then, the storm hit. Those parts of the panorama are black and white because the rover couldn’t complete the task using its filters.
A couple of black-and-white images from the very end of Opportunity’s time, before it went to sleep, show an opaque, dark sky featuring a ghostly sun as the storm swept in.