Click on the image for Impressive Impact (QTVR)
This stunning image features the heat shield impact site of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity. This is an approximately true-color mosaic of panoramic camera images taken through the camera's 750-, 530-, and 430-nanometer filters.
The mosaic was acquired on Opportunity's sol 330 (Dec. 28, 2004), shortly after Opportunity arrived to investigate the site where its heat shield hit the ground south of "Endurance Crater" on Jan. 24, 2004. On the left, the main heat shield piece is inverted and reveals its metallic insulation layer, glinting in the sunlight. The main piece stands about 1 meter tall (about 3.3 feet) and about 13 meters (about 43 feet) from the rover.
The other large, flat piece of debris near the center of the image is about 14 meters (about 46 feet) away. The circular feature on the right side of the image is the crater made by the heat shield's impact. It is about 2.8 meters (9.2 feet) in diameter but only about 5 to 10 centimeters (about 2 to 4 inches) deep. The crater is about 6 meters (about 20 feet) from Opportunity in this view. Smaller fragments and debris can be seen all around the impact site.
The impact excavated a large amount of reddish subsurface material. Darker materials cover part of the crater's flat floor and have formed a streak or jet of material pointing toward the two largest heat shield fragments.