NASA rover Spirit captures panoramic view of Mars from hilltop

The US space agency's robotic rover Spirit has sent back a partial panoramic view from the summit of "Husband Hill" at Gusev Crater on Mars.

Spirit was still sending down data that makes up the color 360-degree picture when NASA held a news conference.

The robot reached the hill's summit at the end of August following a 14-month climb, driving in reverse and forward modes to reduce wear on its wheels, reports BBC.

According to VOA, the crest of Husband Hill is 106 meters above the site where the space rover landed in Gusev crater. The crater is a bowel about 150 kilometers in diameter that scientists selected as a landing site because the terrain suggested it once held a lake.

During it's slow, rocky climb up the hill, Spirit has found mineral deposits suggesting that water once flowed on the red planet. From the top of Husband Hill, the rover is sending back images of layered outcrops to the south of the crater which scientists now believe are the remnants of water flowing out of the crater.

Steve Squyres is principal investigator for the Mars mission involving Spirit and its twin rover, Opportunity. Mr. Squyres says the rocks encountered in Columbia Hills are so far the oldest on the planet.

"They provide a wonderful glimpse into what Mars was like in the earliest part of its history," said Mr. Squyres. "It was a violent place. It was a place where meteorite impacts were happening frequently. It was a place where there volcanic explosions happening frequently. Hot stuff was raining from the skies. There was water. When rocks were deposited, water would flow through those rocks and change their chemistry. This is a glimpse into the ancient past of Mars." Photo: NASA

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