Newsflash: I'm never going to Mars. As much as it pains me to say it, I'll probably never set foot on the planet. Instead, I have to live vicariously through motion pictures, computer games -- "Zak McCracken and the Alien Mindbenders" will always be my Mars-related PC game of choice -- and high-definition panoramic images such as the one you see above. Although I may never see this alien landscape for myself, I'll be able to see as much of the planet as humanly possibly courtesy of the various Mars rovers. Here's hoping nothing goes wrong up there. If it does, I'll be devastated. End shamelessly geeky whining here.
Opportunity, the small robotic explorer currently trekking across the surface of Mars, was ordered to take a nap between December 21st, 2011 through May 8th, 2012. The Martian winters can be particularly tough for fragile electronic adventurers such as Opportunity, so those in charge of its well-being decided it was time for the little guy to take a break for a few months. After all, rolling three years from one crater to another has got to wear a robot out.
During its scheduled hibernation, the rover decided to take a few pictures of the landscape around it. 817 photographs, to be exact. Once these images made their way back to Earth, scientists worked around the clock to piece them together into the nifty image you see above. It may not be the same was setting foot on the planet and having a look at the terrain for yourself, but it's easily the next best thing. In my opinion, anyway.
"The view provides … a spectacularly detailed view of the largest impact crater that we’ve driven to yet,” explained planetary scientist Jim Bell of Arizona State University. He isn't kidding, either. Although the image embedded above is pretty nifty, you really need to see this thing in high definition. If you have a state-of-the-art monitor capable of delivering a true HD experience, this thing might blow your mind. Assuming, of course, that's you've ever dreamt of Mars.