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Wish you were here? NASA rover beams postcard from Mars

'Great views, lovely long walk, see you soon! Opportunity xoxo'

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Pic Mars rover Opportunity has sent back this panoramic holiday snap of the Martian winter.

Panoramic pic of Greeley Haven

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State University

The robot wintered on an outcrop on the Endeavour crater, and this photo shows its own tracks across the ruddy terrain as well as its solar arrays and decks in the foreground.

The scene, stitched together from 817 images taken by the rover's Pancam, was published by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory to celebrate 15 years of robotic presence on the Red Planet for the space agency and Opportunity's 3,000th day on Mars.

"The view provides rich geologic context for the detailed chemical and mineral work that the team did at Greeley Haven over the rover's fifth Martian winter, as well as a spectacularly detailed view of the largest impact crater that we've driven to yet with either rover over the course of the mission," Jim Bell of Arizona State University and Pancam lead scientist said.

NASA's machines have been on the planet since Pathfinder landed on 4 July, 1997. Next month its latest rover, Curiosity, will land there.

Opportunity was only supposed to tootle round the Martian surface for three months, but the rover has been exploring the planet since January 2004. Since it's solar-powered, Opportunity needed to hang around Greeley Haven, near the rim of the Endeavour crater, through the winter to make sure it caught enough sun to keep going.

For a really, really hi-res version of the image, click here. ®

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