Washington: NASA's Opportunity rover has celebrated its 11th anniversary on Mars Saturday (January 24).
The robot's handlers marked the milestone with a stunning panoramic photo that the Opportunity rover took while it was at the summit of “Cape Tribulation”.
The view is from the top of “Cape Tribulation,” a raised section of the rim of Endeavour Crater. The panorama spans the interior of the 22-kilometre-wide crater and extends to the rim of another crater on the horizon.
The mission team members combined some of the photos taken by the robot's panoramic camera into a mosaic, which NASA released Thursday (January 22) to celebrate the Opportunity's 11 years on the Red Planet.
Opportunity landed in the Meridiani Planum region of Mars on January 25, 2004 and since then it has driven 41.7 kilometres. That is farther than any other off-Earth surface vehicle has driven. The rover's work on Mars was initially planned for three months.
“During that prime mission and for more than a decade of bonus performance in extended missions, Opportunity has returned compelling evidence about wet environments on ancient Mars,” NASA said.
Opportunity has been exploring Endeavour's western rim since 2011. From a low segment of the rim that it crossed in mid-2013, called “Botany Bay,” it climbed about 135 meters in elevation to reach the top of Cape Tribulation.
According to the US space agency, Opportunity held its robotic arm so that a small American flag printed on the rover would be visible in the photos.
The US flag is printed on the aluminium cable guard of the rover's rock abrasion tool, which is used for grinding away weathered rock surfaces to expose fresh interior material for examination.
NASA said that the flag is intended as a memorial to victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York. The aluminium was recovered from the site of the Twin Towers in the weeks following the attacks.
(With Agency inputs)