Space Image: Dusty Mars rover's self portrait

March 23, 2012
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ.

( -- This self portrait from NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity shows dust accumulation on the rover's solar panels as the mission approached its fifth Martian winter. The dust reduces the rover's power supply, and the rover's mobility is limited until the winter is over or wind cleans the panels.

This is a mosaic of images taken by Opportunity's panoramic camera (Pancam) during the 2,111th to 2,814th Martian days, or sols, of the rover's mission (Dec. 21 to Dec. 24, 2011). The downward-looking view omits the mast on which the camera is mounted.

The portrait is presented in approximate true color, the camera team's best estimate of what the scene would look like if humans were there and able to see it with their own eyes.

Opportunity has worked through four Martian southern hemisphere winters since it landed in in January 2004 about 14 miles (23 kilometers) northwest of its current location. Closer to the equator than its twin rover, Spirit, Opportunity has not needed to stay on a sun-facing slope during the previous winters. Now, however, Opportunity's solar panels carry a thicker coating of dust, and the team is using a strategy employed for three winters with Spirit: staying on a sun-facing slope. The sun will pass relatively low in the northern sky from the rover's perspective for several months of shortened daylight before and after the southern Mars on March 30, 2012. Opportunity is conducting research while located on the north-facing slope of a site called "Greeley Haven."

Explore further: Spirit's Solar Panels Still Shiny After All This Time

Related Stories

Spirit's Solar Panels Still Shiny After All This Time

January 6, 2006

The most recent self-portrait of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit shows the solar panels still gleaming in the martian sunlight and carrying only a thin veneer of dust two years after the rover landed and began exploring ...

Mars rover Spirit misses communication session

April 1, 2010

( -- NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Spirit skipped a planned communication session on March 30 and, as anticipated from recent power-supply projections, has probably entered a low-power hibernation mode.

NASA's Hibernating Mars Rover May Not Call Home

July 30, 2010

( -- NASA mission controllers have not heard from the Mars Exploration Rover Spirit since March 22, and the rover is facing its toughest challenge yet -- trying to survive the harsh Martian winter.

'Greeley Haven' is winter workplace for Mars rover

January 6, 2012

( -- NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity will spend the next several months at a site informally named "Greeley Haven." The name is a tribute to planetary geologist Ronald Greeley (1939-2011), who was a ...

Durable NASA rover beginning ninth year of Mars work

January 25, 2012

( -- Eight years after landing on Mars for what was planned as a three-month mission, NASA's enduring Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity is working on what essentially became a new mission five months ago.

Recommended for you

NASA's space-station resupply missions to relaunch

November 29, 2015

NASA's commercial space program returns to flight this week as one of its private cargo haulers, Orbital ATK, is to launch its first supply shipment to the International Space Station in more than 13 months.

The hottest white dwarf in the Galaxy

November 25, 2015

Astronomers at the Universities of Tübingen and Potsdam have identified the hottest white dwarf ever discovered in our Galaxy. With a temperature of 250,000 degrees Celsius, this dying star at the outskirts of the Milky ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.