CNN) -- Spectacular new images of Mars could reveal clues about tens of millions of years of the red planet's history.And here's why NASA should be getting proper respects from everyone, everywhere.
NASA has just released photos taken from above the planet by the spacecraft Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, showing the rover Opportunity perched next to the enormous Victoria Crater. Four or five football stadiums could fit inside the crater.
"We've taken approximately 160,000 photographs from Spirit and Opportunity," said Jim Bell, lead scientist for the rover's panoramic camera. "The images that have come down just this week have instantly vaulted to my top 10 list," he said.
The rovers Spirt and Opportunity landed on Mars three weeks apart in January 2004.
The images were taken from about 170 miles above the Martian surface, revealing information about the sedimentary layering of the planet.
Few scientists imagined the two robots would still be gathering information. The robots, about the size of motorized golf carts, have continued to function, 10 times longer than expected.Getting an order of magnitude more performance out of something that has never been done before is certainly worth a Nobel, IMHO. Or at least a few years of solid grant money.
"Today is day 960 of Opportunity's 90-day mission to Mars," said Steve Squyres from Cornell University.