Opportunity's last photo is a bittersweet travel log of Mars

March 15, 2019, 11:58 a.m.
This annotated version of Opportunity's final panorama identifies various objects in the shot
Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/ASU

On June 10, 2018, a dust storm swept across Mars, enveloping NASA's Opportunity rover. The rover fell silent to weather the storm, but after eight months of attempting to "revive" the rover, NASA declared Opportunity dead on Feb. 13, 2019.

Before it shut down, however, Opportunity finished taking what ended up being its last panorama of Mars. The shot, a 360-degree view of the Martian surface, is comprised of 354 images taken by Opportunity's Panoramic Camera (or Pancam) from May 13 through June 10, 2018. Right before the dust storm arrived, Opportunity snagged one final shot of the planet it had explored for 15 years.

The picture above is a false-color image, making most features easier to see. However, you'll notice a few spots in the lower left are black and white. This is because the rover didn't have time to record those spots with its green and violet filters before the dust storm rolled in and blocked the rover's solar panels.

"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. (You can also see a bigger version of the photo shown here at this link.)

"To the right of center you can see the rim of Endeavor 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 Endeavor crater, pristine and unexplored, waiting for visits from future explorers."