Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has just celebrated its 3,000th sol* on Mars. This may sound like an important milestone, and it is. This tenacious six-wheeled robot has survived five Martian winters since it landed on the Red Planet on Jan. 24th, 2004 - considering its warranty was only 90 days, we're certainly getting our money's worth!
In this spectacular 360 degree panorama, Opportunity photographed the vista surrounding her most recent winter hangout: "Greeley Haven."
From sol 2,811 (Dec. 28, 2011) to sol 2,947 (May 8, 2012), Opportunity was stationary atop this northward-sloping outcrop. The angle of Greeley Haven - named after the late Ronald Greeley who was a member of the MER mission team who sadly passed away in 2011 - allowed Opportunity to optimize the amount of sunlight hitting her dusty solar panels while she overwintered.
On May 8, with the onset of Martian spring as the sun rose higher in the sky, Opportunity started rolling again to continue her epic exploration of the Red Planet. She has traveled over 21 miles (34 kilometers) in the eight years since she landed near Mars' equator in the plains of Meridiani Planum.
The image was stitched together from 817 images taken by the rover's panoramic camera (Pancam) during the overwintering. Greeley Haven is located near the northern tip of the "Cape York" segment of the western rim of Endeavour Crater.
*A "sol" is one Martian day - a little over 24 (Earth) hours and 37 minutes.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ.