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Mars Curiosity rover ticks off one Martian year on the Red Planet

NASA's Mars rovers deliver to us amazing images from the surface of the Red Planet

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Scott Sutherland
Meteorologist/Science Writer

Saturday, August 2, 2014, 12:47 PM - While the primary purpose of NASA's two robot rovers - Opportunity and Curiosity - is to conduct science and make amazing discoveries (and they have both undoubtedly succeeded in that), they also send back incredible pictures to wow us and keep us wanting more!

Since she's been on the planet longer, and in honour of her setting a new record for off-world driving record of 40 kilometres this week, let's start with Opportunity. This golf-cart sized rover is well into her 10th year on Mars and is still going quite strong (despite the rough Martian environment).

Here's some of her more recent returns.

Click the image to see the massive, 63 million pixel version:

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.

Taken on May 14, 2014 - her 3,663rd Sol (Martian day) - this is a panoramic view from Pillinger Point, overlooking the floor of Endeavour Crater. According to the NASA website: "The site became a destination for Opportunity to examine because observations from orbit indicated the presence of a clay mineral named montmorillonite, which forms under wet conditions." Below is the false-colour version, which shows off the details of the terrain better, and if you happen to have some red-cyan 3D glasses, you can see a 3D version as well.

Click the image to see the massive, 63 million pixel version:

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.

When Opportunity broke the off-world driving record, she displaced a Russian rover that set the previous record on the moon, back in 1973. In honour of that, and in the spirit of scientific commeradrie with their Russian counterparts, Opportunity's handlers named a nearby crater after the lunar rover. Say 'hello' to Mars crater Lunokhod 2!

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ.

There's false-colour and 3D versions of this one too. One of the most amazing things to happen to Opportunity recently was that most of the dust that had been collecting on her solar panels was blown off by the Martian wind. This resulted in an increase in power to levels the rover hasn't enjoyed since 2008! Here are the before (from January) and after (late March) images she snapped:

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.

If you'd like to see more images from Opportunity, you can find them on NASA's website (click here).

NEXT PAGE: The latest from Curiosity

NASA's next Mars rover, scheduled for the year 2020, will explore the Red Planet like no other mission before
NASA prepares for Comet Siding Spring with plan to protect Mars-orbiting satellites while still gathering awesome science
It's Official! NASA confirms Mars Opportunity rover has broken the off-world driving record

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