ALAMEDA, Calif.--People who've been following the adventures of NASA's two Mars rovers can now get an up-close look at one of the wheeled laboratories without traveling 36 million miles to get there.
NASA and its Jet Propulsion Labs recently opened an exhibit featuring a scale model of the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, giving Bay Area visitors a rare view of the wide array of instruments the rover totes along while exploring the Red Planet.
Along with its companion, Spirit, the real Opportunity rover embarked in 2003 on a one-way mission to analyze Martian terrain with an array of high-tech instruments.
Its earthbound counterpart is equipped with replicas of all the tools and instruments aboard the actual 7.5-foot-wide and 5-foot-long robotic science lab. Here, the Opportunity model resembles a vehicle with a bit of a human personality, with its arm and eye-like cameras mounted on an upright head.
The location of the project is not without significance. The replica is on display aboard the USS Hornet, a ship that itself became part of space history when it recovered capsules from the Apollo 11 and 12 Moon missions.
This mosaic of images, taken with the navigation camera aboard the actual Opportunity rover, shows its windblown sand and bedrock surroundings on September 16, which was the 2,363rd Martian day, or sol, of Opportunity's mission.
This is just a portion of a 360-degree panoramic view that was created from many component images. (See the full-size, zoomable image here.) For scale, NASA says the distance between the parallel wheel tracks in the right half of the image is about 40 inches.