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NASA's Mars rover Opportunity leaves us with one final, glorious panorama

The dearly departed rover delivers an epic view of Perseverance Valley before being engulfed by a dust storm.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/ASU

NASA officially bid farewell to Mars rover Opportunity in February, but the little robotic explorer is still delivering the goods.

On March 12, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) revealed a set of glorious 360-degree panoramas nabbed by Opportunity in Perseverance Valley, right on the western rim of a huge Martian crater known as Endurance. 

And sure, we've seen some remarkable Mars panoramas before, including those captured at Gale Crater by Opportunity's younger sister, Curiosity. But this one feels a little more special, considering Opportunity has come to rest in this very spot -- with this immaculate view -- until humans (or other sentient beings) are able to retrieve it.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/ASU

The color panorama was built via a sequence of 354 images snapped by the rover's Panoramic Camera between May 13 and June 10, 2018. It shows a number of interesting features of Perseverance Valley, in addition to the pristine, unexplored floor of Endurance Crater. The black-and-white frames at the image's bottom-left are a result of the rover not having time to snap the location with its filters before a planet-wide dust storm encircled Mars.

"This final panorama embodies what made our Opportunity rover such a remarkable mission of exploration and discovery," said John Callas, Opportunity project manager at JPL.

A true color panorama of Perseverance Valley. Images were taken between May 13 and June 10, 2018.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/ASU

You can view the finer details of the huge panorama at NASA's JPL website.

Although the panorama provides one last look of Opportunity's resting grounds, the rover's very last image tells a slightly bleaker tale. That incomplete image, seen below, shows the approaching dark that would eventually end Opportunity. The noisy image, with a large black bar, makes it seem like Opportunity was cut-off, mid-sentence, as she sent one final communication home. I got pretty emotional about it.

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NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/ASU

NASA declared the rover dead -- and its mission complete -- on Feb. 13. Originally designed for a three-month mission, Opportunity continued to persevere over 15 years, expanding our knowledge of the Red Planet and providing the foundations for humanity to one day visit our cosmic neighbor and follow in its tracks. Perhaps, in some not-too-distant future, we may even find it half-buried within the Martian soil, and get ready to bring it home.