The fourth planet in the Solar System has always been the focus of our deepest curiosity and our most exotic legends. However, the mysteries of the red planet are slowly being revealed, in part due to three historical missions in 2021 that have laid the foundations for what could be the first manned mission to Mars. Thanks to these advances, today our neighbor feels less distant. Get a closer look with some of the best images of Mars captured in half a century of exploration.
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Endurance Crater Dunes
Captured on August 6, 2004 by the Opportunity rover, this photograph shows the dune field of Endurance Crater in all its glory. With a marked blue tint from the mineral hematite, it is evident how the ridges of the dunes have accumulated more dust than the flanks and flat surfaces.
This photograph has a deep symbolic charge: it is the first color image of the historic Chinese mission to Mars. The snapshot shows the Zhurong rover posing next to the landing capsule, in a kind of selfie on the Martian soil. The photograph was captured by the camera located on the mast of the rover, which landed in May 2021, after orbiting the planet for three months aboard the Tianwen 1 probe.
Outcrop in Home Plate
In 2006, the Spirit rover captured this image of “Stars” (left) and “Crawfords” (right), as these rocky targets located in the Home Plate area are informally known. Tiny streaks of dust extend several inches behind the tiny rocks on the dusty red soils. To some scientists, the dots appear to be the eyes of a face, which is why they call it “James ‘Cool Papa’ Bell,” after a former Pittsburgh Crawfords and Kansas Stars baseball player.
On April 19, 2021, the Ingenuity helicopter became the first land craft to fly in the atmosphere of another planet, a milestone that has been compared to the feat of the Wright brothers in the 1920s. A week later it soared to 16 feet (5 meters ) and starred in his fastest flight, which was witnessed in his first color photograph.
Day and night on Mars
The Hope mission transformed the United Arab Emirates (UAE) into one of the main players in the special race. His The first image, captured on February 10, 2021, showed Mars as we have rarely seen. At an altitude of 24,700 kilometers (15,350 miles), the probe captured the Martian day and night, revealing Olympus Mons and the Valles Marineris canyon system, among other details.
These marcians spherules are located near the crater Fram. The image shows an area just 3 centimeters wide and was captured by Opportunity’s microscopic imager. These are examples of concretions rich in hematite, the mineral form of ferric oxide, which have been nicknamed “blueberries.”
The Spirit rover surveyed spectacular rocks in the Home Plate plateau layers, traversing the north and east sides. Before leaving it in March 2006, he took this image showing some of the most complex layer patterns seen at this location so far.
This impressive perspective of the Marineris Valley was captured on July 9, 2013 by the Viking Orbiter probe. However, the most surprising thing is that it is not actually just an image, but rather a mosaic of 102 photographs captured by the orbiter. With an extension of 2,000 kilometers and eight kilometers deep, Valle Marineris the largest canyon in the Solar System of which there is record.
An unusual pattern resembling a dragon was captured by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on July 4, 2007 at Melas Chasma, one of the canyons that make up the gigantic Valles Marineris system. The area is mostly covered with material that could be volcanic ash, which has been blown away by Martian winds.
This selfie from NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover shows the rover at the Quela drill site, in the Murray Buttes area, at the foot of Mount Sharp. On the left side of the rover the M12 table appears in dark tone, while on the right side is the Monte Sharp.
This image captured in December 2019 by the European Mars Express probe shows what appears to be a large patch of fresh, untrodden snow. It is the Korolev crater, a 82-kilometer-wide formation located near the Martian north pole and which houses an ice mound about 1.8 kilometers thick.
This image captured in February 2019 shows Nili Patera, one of the most active dune fields on Mars. They are shaped like an elongated crescent, known as “barchan dunes.” Its formation is explained by the continuous action of the wind, which blows in the same direction, giving it this particular shape.
The photograph captured on July 20, 1976 by the Viking 1 lander was humanity’s first close-up of the surface of Mars. The image shows rocks and grainy material, such as sand or dust, from the Chryse Planitia Plain sector.