Heatshield on the Horizon
The Mars Exploration Rover Spirit acquired this panoramic camera image mosaic on the 68th martian day, or sol, of its mission (March 12, 2004). The reflective speck about 200 meters (650 feet) away, on the far crater rim, was immediately a point of interest for scientists and engineers alike. They soon were able to identify it as Spirit's protective heatshield.
While the debris is too far away to make out clearly, orbital imagery of the area acquired before and after Spirit landed supports scientists' and engineers' conclusion. Prior to Spirit's landing, the surface at this location appeared undisturbed in orbital images, while post-landing images revealed a large gouge where the heatshield now rests.
The smaller image in the box at the lower left corner provides a closer look at the heatshield, and was taken at a lower compression by the panoramic camera on sol 69 (March 13, 2004). Lower compression results in higher quality images. While both the full panorama and close-up are depicted in approximate true color, their colors vary slightly because different filters were used to acquire them. The close-up image was taken with the 600, 530 and 480 nanometer filters. The large mosaic was taken with the 750, 530 and 480 nanometer filters.
Image credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell
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