A new photo taken by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) captures the landing platform the rover Opportunity left behind in Eagle Crater more than 13 years and 27 miles (44 km) ago, the distance the rover has traveled since landing on Jan. 25, 2004. The long-lived rover arrived bundled in an airbag-cushioned lander that bounced and tumbled until coming to rest at the center of a 72-foot-wide (22 meter) crater named Eagle.
The wider scene below includes Eagle Crater and Opportunity’s nearby parachute and backshell, from an April 8, 2017 photo also by the orbiter using its high-resolution camera. The photos are the first color pictures taken of the scene. The MRO began orbiting Mars more than two years after Opportunity’s landing. One of the first images from the orbiter in 2006 showed Opportunity at the rim of a much larger crater, Victoria, nearly 4 miles (about 6 km) south of the landing site. Another was a black and white of Eagle Crater.
The few and small craters on a broad plain makes it even more amazing expressed that Opportunity achieved a “hole-in-one” landing. When the lander’s petals opened and Opportunity sent home its first look at its surroundings, it provided the first-ever close-by view of sedimentary rocks on Mars along the crater’s rim. After leaving the lander and exploring Eagle Crater, the rover recorded a look-back view before departing the scene.
Incredibly, Opportunity remains active more than 13 years later. It recently departed Cape Tribulation, a segment of the rim of Endeavour Crater it’s been studying since 2014, and is now making its way (appropriately) to Perseverance Valley. The rover team wants to find out how the two-football-field-long valley was carved whether by water, wind or flowing debris lubricated by water. Onward little robot!