For the past three years, NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has been making its way from Mars’ Victoria crater across the rocky, desolate terrain to the Endeavour crater.
The journey, which started in September 2008 and ended in August 2011, was carefully documented by the rover team, which took an end-of-drive image on each Martian day that included a drive.
A new video compiles these 309 images, condensing the historic record of the three-year trek that totaled about 13 miles (21 kilometers) across a Martian plain pocked with smaller craters into a 3 minute video clip.
The video below shows the rim of Endeavour becoming visible on the horizon partway through the journey and growing larger as Opportunity neared its goal. The drive was elongated by many detours, as Opportunity avoided large expanses of treacherous terrain along the way.
Opportunity and its rover twin, Spirit, completed their three-month prime missions on Mars in April 2004. Both rovers continued for years of bonus, extended missions. Both have made important discoveries about wet environments on ancient Mars that may have been favorable for supporting microbial life. Spirit stopped communicating in 2010. Opportunity continues its work at Endeavour. NASA will launch the next-generation Mars rover, car-size Curiosity, this autumn, for arrival at Mars’ Gale crater in August 2012.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech