NASA's robotic Mars Rover Opportunity has been trekking around the surface of Mars for close to eight years now, over 30 times longer than its planned mission duration. While on Mars, the hardy Opportunity moves at a pretty leisurely pace. It took this Energizer-bunny of a rover just short of three years to span the thirteen miles separating Victoria crater from the massive Endeavour crater. But you can experience the trip in less than three minutes.
Yesterday, NASA released a video assembled from 309 images captured by Opportunity over the course of its thirteen-mile excursion — along with audio gathered from the rover's accelerometer data — to create the record of Opportunity's trip that you see up top.
According to a statement issued by NASA:
While NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity was traveling from Victoria crater to Endeavour crater, between September 2008 and August 2011, the rover team took an end-of-drive image on each Martian day that included a drive. A new video compiles these 309 images, providing an historic record of the three-year trek...
[The video] shows the rim of Endeavour becoming visible on the horizon partway through the journey and growing larger as Opportunity neared that goal [the image on the left show's Opportunity's view on the day before it reached the rim of Endeavour crater — image via NASA/JPL]. The drive included detours, as Opportunity went around large expanses of treacherous terrain along the way.
According to Mars Rover planner Paolo Belluta, the sounds you hear in the video correspond to vibrations felt by the rover as it traversed the surface of the planet:
"When the sound is louder, the rover was moving on bedrock. When the sound is softer, the rover was moving on sand."