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Mars Rover Opportunity returns amazing panorama from the Red Planet

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Mars rover Opportunity has returned an amazing new panorama image of the planet's surface.

mars opportunity pancam (space)
mars opportunity pancam (space)

Almost exactly nine years after first blasting off from Earth, the Mars rover Opportunity just keeps trucking on — and its latest return is as impressive as ever. That photo you see up top (click here for a larger version) is a panorama stitched together from 817 separate images taken at Greeley Haven, a rocky outcrop on the Endeavour crater. Opportunity has been stationed at Endeavour since August of last year, and previously uncovered a mineral vein that is compelling evidence for the existence of water on ancient Mars.

There should be more to come from Opportunity in future, too. At 21.35 miles (34.4 km) covered, the rover has already gone far beyond the call of duty, but project manager John Callas told he hopes to "knock off" the 1973 record of 23 miles (37 km) set on the moon by the Soviet Union's Lunokhod 2 robot. Reaching that target would mean clocking more ground distance off Earth's surface than any other vehicle in history.