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Life on Mars: here's what it looks like

Date

Nicky Phillips

A section of the NASA shot of Mars. See the full scale picture on  <a href="http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/mer/multimedia/pia15689.html">NASA's site</a>

A section of the NASA shot of Mars. See the full scale picture on NASA's site Photo: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State University

This is about as good a view of Mars most people will ever see.

NASA has released a panoramic scene, compiled of 817 images, of the Red Planet.

The images were taken by a mast-mounted panoramic camera on the US space agency's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity between December 2011 and May 2012 when the rover was stationary for maintenance during the Martian winter.

NASA described the picture as the "next best thing to being there".

The image shows new rover tracks and an old impact crater, known as the Endeavour Crater, which can be seen just below the horizon in the right half of the picture. It spans 22 kilometres in diameter.

The rover's solar panels and deck can be seen in the foreground.

Opportunity, which has been working on Mars since January 2004, completed its 3000th Martian day on July 2, when the US space agency marked 15 years of robotic presence on the Red Planet.

NASA's Curiosity rover, formally known as the Mars Science Laboratory but nicknamed a "dream machine" by NASA scientists, blasted off from Florida in November and is expected to land in early August.

It is the most advanced machine ever built with the aim of roaming the surface of Earth's nearest neighbour. The rover cost $2.5 billion to construct and launch, carries its own rock-analysing lab and aims to hunt for signs that life once existed there.

with AFP

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