A three-year trek on Mars

NASA has released a movie based on 309 images that were taken by the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity as it traveled from Victoria crater to Endeavour crater – a 13 mile trek which lasted three years.

The video shows the rim of Endeavour becoming visible on the horizon partway through the journey and growing larger as Opportunity neared its goal. 

The drive included multiple detours, as Opportunity was forced to drive around large expanses of treacherous terrain along the way.

NASA also produced a sound track for the video, using data from Opportunity’s accelerometers. The low-frequency data has been sped up 1,000 times to yield audible frequencies.

“The sound represents the vibrations of the rover while moving on the surface of Mars,” explained Paolo Bellutta, a rover planner at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., who has plotted many of Opportunity’s drives and coordinated production of the video. 

“When the sound is louder, the rover was moving on bedrock. When the sound is softer, the rover was moving on sand.”

Opportunity and its rover twin, Spirit, completed their three-month prime missions on Mars in April 2004, but continued functioning for years – making important discoveries about wet environments on ancient Mars that may have been favorable for supporting microbial life. 

Spirit stopped communicating in 2010, while Opportunity continues its work at Endeavour. 

NASA is slated to launch its next-gen rover Curiosity this summer, which will arrive at Mars’ Gale crater in August 2012.