Opportunity Rover Sees Rock Spire in Mars Crater (Photo)

A new photo captured by NASA's Mars rover Opportunity shows a rocky spire in a shallow crater on the Red Planet.

The mosaic, which combines images taken by Opportunity's panoramic camera on March 29 and March 30, depicts a shallow Mars crater called Spirit of St. Louis.

The crater is "about 110 feet (34 meters) long and about 80 feet (24 meters) wide, with a floor slightly darker than surrounding terrain," NASA officials wrote April 30 in a description of the image. "The rocky feature toward the far end of the crater is about 7 to 10 feet (2 to 3 meters) tall, rising higher than the crater's rim."

Spirit of St. Louis lies along the western rim of a much larger crater called Endeavour, which Opportunity has been exploring since August 2011. The far side of the 14-mile-wide (22 kilometers) Endeavour is visible in the new photo on either side of the spire, NASA officials said.

The golf-cart-size Opportunity rover landed on Mars in January 2004, three weeks after its twin, Spirit. The two robots were tasked with three-month missions to search for signs of past water activity on the Red Planet.

Both Spirit and Opportunity found plenty of such evidence, then kept right on rolling along. Spirit finally stopped communicating with Earth in 2010 and was declared dead a year later. Opportunity is still going strong, though the rover has an arthritic arm and has been experiencing problems with its memory recently.

NASA released a true-color version of the new Spirit of St. Louis photo as well as a false-color one that highlights differences in surface materials.

Opportunity isn't the only rover currently trundling across Mars; NASA's car-size Curiosity rover landed on a different part of the Red Planet in August 2012 and is now exploring the foothills of the 3.4-mile-high (5.5 km) Mount Sharp.

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