NASA Three-year Mars journey presented in three minutes

It took the NASA Mars Rover Opportunity three years to cover 13 miles of otherworldly terrain, but now you can experience the journey condensed into a three minute span.

NASA recently posted the “Rovers Eye View” video on its website gallery, explaining the Mars trek took the vehicle from Victoria crater to Endeavour crater between September, 2008, and August, 2011. In the course of the trip, 309 “horizon photographs” were captured and later edited together for the slide show. NASA adjusted audio data recorded by the rover so it could be heard and applied it to the video as a captivating soundtrack.

The Martian landscape is barren and appears to be mostly sandy with mountain ranges interspersed periodically on the horizon. Rocky outcroppings dot the landscape and provide an eerie contrast to the bleak scenes provided by the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology. The audio overlay sounds much like someone continuously crunching a bag of chips. The sound – which had to be sped up 1,000 times to be heard, according to NASA – becomes louder as the rover moves from sand onto bedrock. Although the video doesn’t give extensive footage of the Endeavor crater, it does show up on the horizon about half-way through the presentation.

Other than an occasional shadow, or mechanical arm, there is no sign of life visible in the video.

Even though prime missions for the Rover Opportunity and its twin, Spirit, ended on Mars in April, of 2004, both continued to provide “bonus, extended missions” for years to come. Spirit stopped communicating with Earth in 2010, according to a NASA statement, and Opportunity continues to work at the 14-mile-wide Endeavor crater. The Rovers each made discoveries during their drives that indicate ancient Mars may have supported microbial life, the statement said.

Opportunity has driven a total of just under 21 miles while on Mars and has far outlasted expectations.

“We have a very senior rover in good health for having already worked 30 times longer than planned,” John Callas, a project manager for Opportunity, said in a statement.”

NASA also has posted a collection of photographs taken by the rover Spirito during its travels on Mars. The imagery shows much of the same dusty terrain as that portrayed in the Opportunity video, but also intersperses some intriguing scenes including signs of water, dust devils sweeping across the Martian plains and a sunset at Gusev Crater.

A new rover, Curiosity, will be launched between Nov. 25 and Dec. 18 and is expected to arrive on Mars by August, 2012, according to NASA.

About Author:

J.P. McCawley writes full-time on varied topics ranging from current events to popular culture and technology, including innovative products like the Galaxy S, iPhone and other gadgets.

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