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NASA Mars Exploration Program
Mars Exploration Program

Revealing Mars: History

Mars@50 Those Were The Days...

When you have been exploring a planet for 50 years, you should expect a few changes! Our tools and techniques for exploring Mars have improved, from the first grainy black-and-white images taken by telescopes on Earth, to full-color panoramas taken by rovers on the martian surface. Use the slider below to see a few examples of how times have changed.

Click on Left Image/Right Image to learn more about each image.

Martian Mosaics

When twin spacecraft Mariner 6 and 7 sent back wide-angle images of Mars, scientists glued them on a globe already containing an indistinct, Earth-based view of Mars. Today, we leave the cutting and pasting to software programs that seamlessly stitch together to create mosaics of Mars.

Yes, Mr. President!

When planetary firsts happen, the President might come calling! William Pickering, the Director of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, presented President Lyndon Johnson with prints taken during Mariner 4's historic flyby of Mars. In 2012, when the Curiosity rover safely touched down on Mars, President Barak Obama called JPL to offer his congratulations on "sticking the landing."

Mission Control

"Mission control" has been operational and staffed every day since 1964 when JPL completed the new Space Flight Operations Facility, a National Historic Landmark. Today, engineers send and receive commands for spacecraft in, and beyond, our Solar System.

It Takes a Team

In the early days of space exploration, men mostly comprised science and engineering teams, with women in supporting roles. Today, NASA encourages people with many perspectives to contribute their skills and experience to make missions a success.

Canyon Country

The first spacecraft to orbit another planet, Mariner 9 was also the first to discover the "Grand Canyon of Mars," Valles Marineris. The Viking orbiters later studied this 3000-mile-long crack in the martian surface.

Fun in the Sun

Engineers run many tests before sending the spacecraft on their journeys into space. In 1964, on a tight schedule, engineers tested Mariner 4's solar panels outdoors in a plastic tent. Engineers deployed the solar arrays for the MAVEN spacecraft in a cleanroom, no sunblock needed.