Opportunity Rover Sees Rock Spire in Mars Crater (Photo)

Opportunity Rover View of 'Spirit of St. Louis' Crater
NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover captured this view of a shallow crater called “Spirit of St. Louis” on March 29 and March 30, 2015. The rock spire toward the crater’s far end is 7 to 10 feet (2 to 3 meters) tall. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.)

A new photo captured by NASA's Mars rover Opportunity shows a rocky spire in a shallow crater on the Red Planet.

The mosaic, which combines images taken by Opportunity's panoramic camera on March 29 and March 30, depicts a shallow Mars crater called Spirit of St. Louis.

The crater is "about 110 feet (34 meters) long and about 80 feet (24 meters) wide, with a floor slightly darker than surrounding terrain," NASA officials wrote April 30 in a description of the image. "The rocky feature toward the far end of the crater is about 7 to 10 feet (2 to 3 meters) tall, rising higher than the crater's rim."

View of “Spirit of St. Louis” crater captured by NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover on March 29 and March 30, 2015. This version of the image is presented in false color to highlight differences in surface materials. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.)

Spirit of St. Louis lies along the western rim of a much larger crater called Endeavour, which Opportunity has been exploring since August 2011. The far side of the 14-mile-wide (22 kilometers) Endeavour is visible in the new photo on either side of the spire, NASA officials said.

The golf-cart-size Opportunity rover landed on Mars in January 2004, three weeks after its twin, Spirit. The two robots were tasked with three-month missions to search for signs of past water activity on the Red Planet.

Both Spirit and Opportunity found plenty of such evidence, then kept right on rolling along. Spirit finally stopped communicating with Earth in 2010 and was declared dead a year later. Opportunity is still going strong, though the rover has an arthritic arm and has been experiencing problems with its memory recently.

NASA released a true-color version of the new Spirit of St. Louis photo as well as a false-color one that highlights differences in surface materials.

Opportunity isn't the only rover currently trundling across Mars; NASA's car-size Curiosity rover landed on a different part of the Red Planet in August 2012 and is now exploring the foothills of the 3.4-mile-high (5.5 km) Mount Sharp.

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with Space.com and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.