A report on Mars Science Laboratory

Hubble view of Mars: Gale crater can be seen. Slightly left and south of center, it is a small dark spot with dust trailing southward from it.
MSL self-portrait from Gale Crater sol (October 31, 2012).
Mars Science Laboratory in final assembly
Diagram of the MSL spacecraft: 1- Cruise stage; 2- Backshell; 3- Descent stage; 4- Curiosity rover; 5- Heat shield; 6- Parachute
Color-coded rover diagram
Goldstone antenna can receive signals
Wheels of a working sibling to Curiosity. The Morse code pattern (for "JPL") is represented by small (dot) and large (dash) holes in three horizontal lines on the wheels. The code on each line is read from right to left.
The shadow of Curiosity and Aeolis Mons ("Mount Sharp")
Comparison of Radiation Doses – includes the amount detected on the trip from Earth to Mars by the RAD on the MSL (2011–2013).
The RAD on Curiosity.
MARDI views the surface
MSL's cruise stage being tested at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory near Pasadena, California
Aeolis Mons rises from the middle of Gale Crater – Green dot marks the Curiosity rover landing site in Aeolis Palus – North is down
The MSL launched from Cape Canaveral
Animation of Mars Science Laboratory trajectory
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Martian atmosphere entry events from cruise stage separation to parachute deployment
The guided entry is the phase that allowed the spacecraft to steer with accuracy to its planned landing site
MSL's parachute is 16 m in diameter.
NASA's Curiosity rover and its parachute were spotted by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter as the probe descended to the surface. August 6, 2012.
The powered descent stage
Entry events from parachute deployment through powered descent ending at sky crane flyaway
Artist's conceptIon of Curiosity being lowered from the rocket-powered descent stage.

Robotic space probe mission to Mars launched by NASA on November 26, 2011, which successfully landed Curiosity, a Mars rover, in Gale Crater on August 6, 2012.

- Mars Science Laboratory

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Curiosity (rover)

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Two Jet Propulsion Laboratory engineers stand with three vehicles, providing a size comparison of three generations of Mars rovers. Front and center left is the flight spare for the first Mars rover, Sojourner, which landed on Mars in 1997 as part of the Mars Pathfinder Project. On the left is a Mars Exploration Rover (MER) test vehicle that is a working sibling to Spirit and Opportunity, which landed on Mars in 2004. On the right is a test rover for the Mars Science Laboratory, which landed as Curiosity on Mars in 2012. Sojourner is 65 cm long. The Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) are 1.6 m long. Curiosity on the right is 3 m long.
Curiosity transmits to Earth directly or via three relay satellites in Mars orbit.
Curiosity and surrounding area as viewed by MRO/HiRISE. North is left. (14 August 2012; enhanced colors)
MAGGIE Rover
Scarecrow rover
Instrument location diagram
The turret at the end of the robotic arm holds five devices.
The internal spectrometer (left) and the laser telescope (right) for the mast
First laser spectrum of chemical elements from ChemCam on Curiosity ("Coronation" rock, 19 August 2012)
First full-resolution Navcam images
First X-ray diffraction view of Martian soil (Curiosity at Rocknest, 17 October 2012).
MARDI camera
First drill tests (John Klein rock, Yellowknife Bay, 2 February 2013).
Celebration erupts at NASA with the rover's successful landing on Mars (6 August 2012).
Curiosity Traverse Path showing its current location
Mast head with ChemCam, MastCam-34, MastCam-100, NavCam.
One of the six wheels on Curiosity
High-gain (right) and low-gain (left) antennas
UV sensor
Curiosity descending under its parachute (6 August 2012; MRO/HiRISE).
Curiosity{{'s}} parachute flapping in Martian wind (12 August 2012 to 13 January 2013; MRO).
Gale crater - surface materials (false colors; THEMIS; 2001 Mars Odyssey).
Curiosity{{'s}} landing site is on Aeolis Palus near Mount Sharp (north is down).
Mount Sharp rises from the middle of Gale; the green dot marks Curiosity{{'s}} landing site (north is down).
Green dot is Curiosity{{'s}} landing site; upper blue is Glenelg; lower blue is base of Mount Sharp.
Curiosity{{'s}} landing ellipse. Quad 51, called Yellowknife, marks the area where Curiosity actually landed.
Quad 51, a 1-mile-by-1-mile section of the crater Gale - Curiosity landing site is noted.
MSL debris field - parachute landed 615 m from Curiosity (3-D: rover and parachute) (17 August 2012; MRO).
Curiosity{{'s}} landing site, Bradbury Landing, as seen by MRO/HiRISE (14 August 2012)
Curiosity{{'s}} first tracks viewed by MRO/HiRISE (6 September 2012)
First-year and first-mile map of Curiosity{{'s}} traverse on Mars (1 August 2013) (3-D).
Ejected heat shield as viewed by Curiosity descending to Martian surface (6 August 2012).
Curiosity{{'s}} first image after landing (6 August 2012). The rover's wheel can be seen.
Curiosity{{'s}} first image after landing (without clear dust cover, 6 August 2012)
Curiosity landed on 6 August 2012 near the base of Aeolis Mons (or "Mount Sharp")<ref name="PHYS-20120815"/>
Curiosity{{'s}} first color image of the Martian landscape, taken by MAHLI (6 August 2012)
Curiosity{{'s}} self-portrait - with closed dust cover (7 September 2012)
Curiosity{{'s}} self-portrait (7 September 2012; color-corrected)
Calibration target of MAHLI (9 September 2012; alternate 3-D version)
U.S. Lincoln penny on Mars (Curiosity; 10 September 2012)
U.S. Lincoln penny on Mars (Curiosity; 4 September 2018)
Wheels on Curiosity. Mount Sharp is visible in the background (MAHLI, 9 September 2012)
Curiosity{{'s}} tracks on first test drive (22 August 2012), after parking {{cvt|6|m}} from original landing site<ref name="NASA-20120822"/>
Comparison of color versions (raw, natural, white balance) of Aeolis Mons on Mars (23 August 2012)
Curiosity{{'s}} view of Aeolis Mons (9 August 2012; white-balanced image)
Layers at the base of Aeolis Mons. The dark rock in inset is the same size as Curiosity.

Curiosity is a car-sized Mars rover designed to explore the Gale crater on Mars as part of NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

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Spacecraft designed to study the geology and climate of Mars, provide reconnaissance of future landing sites, and relay data from surface missions back to Earth.

Spacecraft designed to study the geology and climate of Mars, provide reconnaissance of future landing sites, and relay data from surface missions back to Earth.

Launch of Atlas V carrying the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, 11:43:00 UTC August 12, 2005
Transfer orbit from Earth to Mars. TCM-1 to TCM-4 denote the planned trajectory correction maneuvers.
Animation of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiters trajectory from August 12, 2005 to December 31, 2007
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Animation of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiters trajectory around Mars from March 10, 2006 to September 30, 2007
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Artwork of MRO aerobraking
Tectonic fractures within the Candor Chasma region of Valles Marineris, Mars, retain ridge-like shapes as the surrounding bedrock erodes away. This points to past episodes of fluid alteration along the fractures and reveals clues into past fluid flow and geochemical conditions below the surface.
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter views Earth and the Moon (April 22, 2022)
HiRISE camera structure
Victoria crater from HiRise
Mars Color Imager on the right side
CRISM Instrument
An artist's concept of MRO using SHARAD to "look" under the surface of Mars
Size comparison of MRO with predecessors
The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter solar panel
MRO High Gain Antenna installation
Data comparison chart
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter development and prime mission costs, by fiscal year
Water ice excavated by an impact crater that formed between January and September 2008. The ice was identified spectroscopically using CRISM.
Lobate debris apron in Phlegra Montes, Cebrenia quadrangle. The debris apron is probably mostly ice with a thin covering of rock debris, so it could be a source of water for future Martian colonists. Scale bar is 500 m.
Chloride deposits in Terra Sirenum
Two pictures from HiRISE showing how ice disappeared over time in a crater. The crater on the left is before ice disappeared. The crater is 6 meters in diameter and located in Cebrenia quadrangle.
Martian avalanche and debris falls (HiRISE 2008)
A photo with scale demonstrates the size of the avalanche.
Image of Phoenix landing on Mars, as seen by HiRISE. Although in the image it appears to be descending into the crater, Phoenix actually landed {{convert|20|km|abbr=on}} away from it.
The Phoenix lander and its heatshield as seen by HiRISE
Tracks of the rover Opportunity, as seen by HiRISE. The white dots are places where the rover stopped to perform scientific observations or turned.
Opportunity as seen by HiRISE on January 29, 2009. Opportunity is on its way to Endeavour Crater, {{convert|17|km|abbr=on}} away at this point.
The Curiosity rover during atmospheric entry as seen by HiRISE on August 6, 2012. Supersonic parachute and backshell visible.
Perseverance rover parachute descend over the Jezero crater photographed by HiRISE on February 18, 2021.

MRO played a key role in choosing safe landing sites for the Phoenix lander (2007), Mars Science Laboratory / Curiosity rover (2012), InSight lander (2018), and the Mars 2020 / Perseverance rover (2021).

Mars Exploration Rover

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Robotic space mission involving two Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, exploring the planet Mars.

Robotic space mission involving two Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, exploring the planet Mars.

Artist's conception of MER rovers on Mars
Timeline of the Mars Exploration mission
Comparison of distances driven by various wheeled vehicles on the surface of Earth's Moon and Mars.
MER launch configuration, break apart illustration
Cruise stage of Opportunity rover
MER cruise stage diagram
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Mars Exploration Rover's parachute test
Descent is halted by retrorockets and lander is dropped 10 m to the surface in this computer generated impression.
Artist's concept of inflated airbags
MER lander petals opening (Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech)
Spirit's lander on Mars
Schematic drawing of the MER
Mars Exploration Rover (rear) and Sojourner rover
Pancam Mast Assembly (PMA)
Rock Abrasion Tool (RAT)
Alpha particle X-ray spectrometer (APXS) (Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech)
Sofi Collis with a model of Mars Exploration Rover
Rover team members simulate Spirit in a Martian sandtrap.
Spirit contains a memorial to the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia's STS-107 2003 mission, which disintegrated during reentry.
Self-portrait of Opportunity near Endeavour Crater on the surface of Mars (January 6, 2014).
Cape Tribulation southern end, as seen in 2017 by Opportunity rover
First color picture from Gusev crater. Rocks were found to be basalt. Everything was covered with a fine dust that Spirit determined was magnetic because of the mineral magnetite.
Cross-sectional drawing of a typical rock from the plains of Gusev crater. Most rocks contain a coating of dust and one or more harder coatings. Water-deposited veins are visible, along with crystals of olivine. Veins may contain bromine salts.

On January 24, 2014, NASA reported that then current studies by the remaining rover Opportunity as well as by the newer Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity would now be searching for evidence of ancient life, including a biosphere based on autotrophic, chemotrophic and/or chemolithoautotrophic microorganisms, as well as ancient water, including fluvio-lacustrine environments (plains related to ancient rivers or lakes) that may have been habitable.

Aeolis Mons rises from the middle of the crater - the green dot marks the Curiosity rover landing site in Aeolis Palus (click the image to expand, the dot is barely visible at this scale.) North is down in this image.

Gale (crater)

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Crater, and probable dry lake, at -5.4°N, 137.8°W in the northwestern part of the Aeolis quadrangle on Mars.

Crater, and probable dry lake, at -5.4°N, 137.8°W in the northwestern part of the Aeolis quadrangle on Mars.

Aeolis Mons rises from the middle of the crater - the green dot marks the Curiosity rover landing site in Aeolis Palus (click the image to expand, the dot is barely visible at this scale.) North is down in this image.
Colorized shaded relief map of the crater Gale. The general landing area for Curiosity on the northwestern crater floor, named Aeolis Palus, is circled. (HRSC data)
Curiositys view of the interior of Gale from the slopes (at 327 m elevation) of Mount Sharp (video (1:53)) (October 25, 2017)
Mars between day and night, with an area containing Gale crater, beginning to catch the morning light
Maps of Mars - old and new - Gale is noted in the middle of the image
Map of actual (and proposed) rover landing sites including Gale
Map of Elysium Planitia - Gale is in the lower left - Aeolis Mons is in the middle of the crater
Map of Aeolis quadrangle - Gale is in the upper left - Aeolis Mons is in the middle of the crater
Gale crater - surface materials (false colors; THEMIS; 2001 Mars Odyssey)
Gale crater landing site is within Aeolis Palus near Aeolis Mons - north is down.
Ancient Lake fills Gale Crater on Mars (simulated view).
Estimated size of ancient lake on Aeolis Palus in Gale<ref name="NYT-20131209" /><ref name="SCI-20131209" />
Peace Vallis and alluvial fan near the Curiosity rover landing ellipse and site (noted by +)
Gale crater - landing site is noted - also, alluvial fan (blue) and sediment layers in Aeolis Mons (cutaway)
Gale crater - topographic and gravity field maps - landing site is noted - Mars gravity model 2011
Aeolis Mons may have formed from the erosion of sediment layers that once filled Gale.
Gale sediment layers may have formed by lake or windblown particle deposition.
Gale's "Grand Canyon", as seen by HiRISE - scale bar is 500 meters long
Curiosity landing site (green dot) - blue dot marks "Glenelg Intrigue" - blue spot marks base of Aeolis Mons - a planned area of study
Curiosity landing site - "quad map" includes "Yellowknife" Quad 51 of Aeolis Palus in Gale crater
Curiosity landing site - "Yellowknife" Quad 51 (1-mi-by-1-mi) of Aeolis Palus in Gale
MSL debris field viewed by HiRISE on August 17, 2012 - parachute is {{convert|615|m|ft|abbr=on}} from the rover<ref>Mars Science Laboratory: Multimedia-Images</ref> (3-D: rover & parachute)
Curiosity landing site ("Bradbury Landing") viewed by HiRISE (MRO) (August 14, 2012)
First-year and first-mile traverse map of Curiosity on Mars (August 1, 2013) (3-D)
Sunset - Gale crater (April 15, 2015)
Sunset (animated) - Gale crater (April 15, 2015)
Aeolis Palus and Aeolis Mons in Gale as viewed by Curiosity (August 6, 2012)
The rim and floor of Gale as viewed by Curiosity (August 9, 2012)
Gale rim about {{convert|18|km|mi|abbr=on}} north of Curiosity (August 9, 2012)
Layers at the base of Aeolis Mons - dark rock in inset is same size as Curiosity (white balanced image)
Aeolis Mons in Gale as viewed by Curiosity (August 9, 2012) (white balanced image)
Wheels on Curiosity - Aeolis Mons is in the background (MAHLI, September 9, 2012).
"Rocknest" sand patch in Gale - between "Bradbury Landing" and Glenelg (September 28, 2012)

The NASA Mars rover Curiosity, of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission, landed in "Yellowknife" Quad 51 of Aeolis Palus in Gale at 05:32 UTC August 6, 2012.

Aerial view of JPL

Jet Propulsion Laboratory

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Federally funded research and development center and NASA field center in the city of La Cañada Flintridge in California, United States.

Federally funded research and development center and NASA field center in the city of La Cañada Flintridge in California, United States.

Aerial view of JPL
Aerial view of JPL
The control room at JPL
MSL mockup compared with the Mars Exploration Rover and Sojourner rover by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory on May 12, 2008
Research rockets on display at JPL in April 2006.
A 1960s advert reads: "When you were a kid, science fiction gave you a sense of wonder. Now you feel the same just by going to work."
A display at the May 19, 2007 Open House

Among the laboratory's major active projects are the Mars 2020 mission, which includes the Perseverance rover and the Ingenuity Mars helicopter; the Mars Science Laboratory mission, including the Curiosity rover; the InSight lander (Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport); the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter; the Juno spacecraft orbiting Jupiter; the SMAP satellite for earth surface soil moisture monitoring; the NuSTAR X-ray telescope; and the forthcoming Psyche asteroid orbiter.

NASA's Curiosity rover, selfie, 2015

Mars rover

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Motor vehicle designed to travel on the surface of Mars.

Motor vehicle designed to travel on the surface of Mars.

NASA's Curiosity rover, selfie, 2015
Zhurong rover and lander captured by HiRISE from NASA's MRO on 6 June 2021
Curiosity's (MSL) rover "hand" featuring a suite of instruments on a rotating "wrist". Mount Sharp is in the background (September 8, 2012).
Opportunitys first self-portrait including the camera mast on Mars
(February 14−20, 2018 / sols 4998−5004). It was taken with its microscopic imager instrument.
Mars Landing Sites (December 16, 2020)
Comparison of the distances travelled by various Mars rovers
Sojourner rover on Mars
Comparison of wheels: Mars Sojourner rover, MER, MSL
Comparison (2008): MER, Sojourner rover, MSL
Comparison (2011): MER, Sojourner rover, humans, MSL

🇺🇸 Curiosity of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission by NASA, was launched November 26, 2011 and landed at the Aeolis Palus plain near Aeolis Mons (informally "Mount Sharp") in Gale Crater on August 6, 2012. The Curiosity rover is still operational as of August 2022.

Pictured in natural color in 2007

Mars

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Fourth planet from the Sun and the second-smallest planet in the Solar System, being larger than only Mercury.

Fourth planet from the Sun and the second-smallest planet in the Solar System, being larger than only Mercury.

Pictured in natural color in 2007
Geologic map of Mars (USGS, 2014)
A cross-section of underground water ice is exposed at the steep slope that appears bright blue in this enhanced-color view from the MRO. The scene is about 500 meters wide. The scarp drops about 128 meters from the level ground. The ice sheets extend from just below the surface to a depth of 100 meters or more.
A MOLA-based topographic map showing highlands (red and orange) dominating the Southern Hemisphere of Mars, lowlands (blue) the northern. Volcanic plateaus delimit regions of the northern plains, whereas the highlands are punctuated by several large impact basins.
Fresh asteroid impact on Mars at 3.34°N, 219.38°W. These before and after images of the same site were taken on the Martian afternoons of 27 and 28 March 2012 respectively (MRO).
Viking 1 image of Olympus Mons. The volcano and related terrain are approximately 550 km across.
Valles Marineris (2001 Mars Odyssey)
Escaping atmosphere on Mars (carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen) by MAVEN in UV
Mars is about 143 e6mi from the Sun; its orbital period is 687 (Earth) days, depicted in red. Earth's orbit is in blue.
Viking 1 lander's sampling arm scooped up soil samples for tests (Chryse Planitia)
The descent stage of the Mars Science Laboratory mission carrying the Curiosity rover deploys its parachutes to decelerate itself before landing, photographed by Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Animation of the apparent retrograde motion of Mars in 2003 as seen from Earth.
Mars distance from Earth in millions of km (Gm).
Martian tripod illustration from the 1906 French edition of The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells
Curiosity view of Martian soil and boulders after crossing the "Dingo Gap" sand dune
Valles Marineris, taken by the Viking 1 probe
Edge-on view of Mars atmosphere by Viking 1 probe
Orbit of Mars and other Inner Solar System planets
Curiosity’s robotic arm showing drill in place, February 2013
Scoop of Mars soil by Curiosity, October 2012
Ingenuity helicopter on Mars, preparing for its first flight
Mars seen through an 16-inch amateur telescope, at 2020 opposition

Another six are on the surface: the InSight lander, the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover, the Perseverance rover, the Ingenuity helicopter, the Tianwen-1 lander, and the Zhurong rover.

Map of Gale Crater with Aeolis Mons rising from the middle of the crater. The Curiosity rover landing ellipse is shown on the northwestern crater floor, named Aeolis Palus.

Aeolis Palus

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Plain between the northern wall of Gale crater and the northern foothills of Aeolis Mons on Mars.

Plain between the northern wall of Gale crater and the northern foothills of Aeolis Mons on Mars.

Map of Gale Crater with Aeolis Mons rising from the middle of the crater. The Curiosity rover landing ellipse is shown on the northwestern crater floor, named Aeolis Palus.
Gale crater - surface materials (false colors; THEMIS; 2001 Mars Odyssey).
Aeolis Mons rises from the middle of Gale Crater - Green dot marks the Curiosity rover landing site in Aeolis Palus.
Gale Crater - Landing site is within Aeolis Palus near Aeolis Mons ("Mount Sharp") - North is down.
Ancient Lake fills Gale Crater on Mars (simulated view).
Ancient Lake on Aeolis Palus in Gale Crater - possible size (December 9, 2013).<ref name="NYT-20131209" /><ref name="SCI-20131209" />
Curiosity rover landing site (green dot) - Blue dot marks Glenelg Intrigue - Blue spot marks "Base of Mount Sharp" - a planned area of study.
Curiosity rover landing site - "Quad Map" includes "Yellowknife" Quad 51 of Aeolis Palus in Gale Crater.
Curiosity rover landing site - "Yellowknife"  Quad 51 (1-mi-by-1-mi) of Aeolis Palus in Gale Crater.
MSL debris field viewed by HiRISE on August 17, 2012 - parachute is {{convert|615|m|ft|abbr=on}} from the rover.<ref>Mars Science Laboratory: Multimedia-Images</ref> (3-D: rover and parachute)
Curiosity's landing site (Bradbury Landing) viewed by HiRISE (MRO) (August 14, 2012).
"Rocknest" sand patch in Aeolis Palus - between "Bradbury Landing" and Glenelg (September 28, 2012).
Aeolis Palus with Aeolis Mons ("Mount Sharp") as viewed by the Curiosity rover (August 6, 2012).
Wheels on the Curiosity rover - "Mount Sharp" is in the background (MAHLI, September 9, 2012).
First-Year & First-Mile Traverse Map of the Curiosity rover on Mars (August 1, 2013) (3-D).

The NASA Mars Science Laboratory mission landed the Curiosity rover on Aeolis Palus in August 2012.

RAD in Curiosity

Radiation assessment detector

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RAD in Curiosity
Radiation Assessment Detector on the Curiosity rover (Mars Science Laboratory)

The Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) is an instrument mounted on the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover.

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Exploration of Mars

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The planet Mars has been explored remotely by spacecraft.

The planet Mars has been explored remotely by spacecraft.

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A 19th-century hand-drawn map by Giovanni Schiaparelli, and a more modern photographic image, with a blended one in the middle.
Spacecraft launches and Mars distance from Earth in millions of kilometers
Mars Landing Sites (16 December 2020)
A diagram of the Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars in 2012
Mars 1M spacecraft
The first close-up images taken of Mars in 1965 from Mariner 4 show an area about 330 km across by 1200 km from limb to bottom of frame.
Mariner Crater, as seen by Mariner 4. The location is Phaethontis quadrangle.
Sojourner takes Alpha Proton X-ray Spectrometer measurements of the Yogi Rock.
Gullies, similar to those formed on Earth, are visible on this image from Mars Global Surveyor.
A color-coded elevation map produced from data collected by Mars Global Surveyor indicating the result of floods on Mars.
Animation of 2001 Mars Odyssey trajectory around Mars from 24 October 2001 to 24 October 2002
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Animation of Mars Express trajectory around Mars from 25 December 2003 to 1 January 2010
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Polar surface as seen by the Phoenix lander.
Slope streaks as seen by HiRISE
Curiosity's view of Aeolis Mons ("Mount Sharp") foothills on August 9, 2012 EDT (white balanced image).
NASA missions to Mars (28 September 2021)
(Perseverance rover; Ingenuity Mars helicopter; InSight lander; Odyssey orbiter; MAVEN orbiter; Curiosity rover; Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter)
Mapping Perseverance samples collected to date
Concept for NASA Design Reference Mission Architecture 5.0 (2009).
Artistic simulated photo looking out a portal spacecraft coming for a Mars landing.
Deep Space 2 technology

The Mars Science Laboratory mission was launched on November 26, 2011 and it delivered the Curiosity rover on the surface of Mars on August 6, 2012 UTC.