Mars: The Photographic Story

Contributed by Brad Garczynski

This Mastcam-Z right-eye 34 mm Bayer filter image was taken on Sol 50 in preparation for video of the Mars Ingenuity helicopter test flights. The desolate Martian landscape belies an active past of flowing rivers, deep lakes, violent impacts, oozing volcanoes, and possibly even microbes that called this place home. The mounded feature (named “Kodiak”) in the top left of the image stands about 1.4 miles (2.3 kilometers) to the west and contains layered rocks likely deposited over 3 billion years ago as part of the Jezero delta. Beyond that, the crater rim rises above and looms about 6.2 miles (10 kilometers) away. Much closer, the dusty terrain is interrupted by the rover tracks and the 19 inch (0.49 meter) tall Ingenuity helicopter, a mark of foreign visitors built by the hands and curious minds of Earthlings millions of miles away.

On the eve of the Perseverance rover landing in February 2021, I came across a book entitled “Mars: The Photographic Story.” It was published in 1962, 3 years before Mariner 4 would conduct the first successful flyby of Mars and send back the first close-up images of the planet. The book covers the groundbreaking discoveries and our knowledge of Mars at the time when all we could do was peer through a telescope and wonder what more we could learn about this alien world. Almost 60 years later, this breathtaking image is a testament to the progress we have made in Mars exploration, built on the generations of thought and work that has preceded us, and the legacies of those who have inspired us to continue moving that needle forward for future generations. 

Here’s to us all contributing to the new photographic story!

April 11, 2021

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