Amid the excitement of the Apollo 11 Moon landing, another revelatory mission was gathering data about Mars. A pair of spacecraft, Mariners 6 and 7, obtained closeups of selected regions and lower resolution views of the entire planet as they approached. This is the first color spacecraft photograph ever made of Mars, taken by Mariner 7 in late July 1969. 244K
The original version of the first color photo returned from the surface of Mars. In this first release the Viking imaging team intended to balance the sky color a neutral gray. The color balance somehow shifted towards the blue during the preparation of the photographic prints and the result was a surprisingly Earthlike Mars, widely reproduced in news magazines and television. While superseded by later more accurate work, this was the first impression many had of what our neighbor world looked like on the ground. A few people continue to circulate claims that Mars really looks like this, generally with conspiratorial overtones. 180K
A later color image of a similar scene, with more of the lower field of view revealed. Note the lighter 'subsoil' layer exposed by the lander descent engine at the lower left. The overall neutral gray paint on the Viking lander and the dull 'brass' like color of the soil sampler housing assist in determining a reasonable color balance. 192K
Viking 1 returned color images of its rocky surroundings in sections over time. Here is a composite of the camera 2 color images made with similar lighting conditions, with an artistically added sky. 128K.
This Viking 2 panorama was assembled from two images taken on somewhat different times of day. The tilt of the spacecraft is partially corrected by use of 'shear' filter in Photoshop. In retrospact, despite great effort using visual and radar data of the landing sites available at the time, both landers ended up among the rockiest places on the planet! 772K
Pathfinder's panorama, shown here with some effort to show something resembling the true colors of the scenery and sky. This was done as a background to an animation so the Rover has not driven to the large rock 'Yogi' yet! The pre rover deployment panorama was used to 'fill in' the ground later marked up by the little rover. 248K
On April 30 the MER-B rover ('Opportunity') obtained color images of the sunset with the L4, 5, and 6 filters which when combined provide an image with reasonable color fidelity. The preliminary JPEG images used, including the green (L5) filtered image, can be seen here. They captured half the inner twilight glow, with the right edge of the frame just catching the setting Sun. I first registered the Sun, which moved between the exposures, and the inner glows to the green image and obtained a plausable looking match in all 3 colors. I then 'mirrored' the frame and placed it so the Sun was a circle partially revealed from both sides. I then artistically 'filled in' the narrow middle strip of missing data. 96K
The European Space Agency 'Mars Express' spacecraft carries a high quality multispectral camera which has returned many excellent color Mars images. This color image of the Gusev landing site region as been adjusted from the garish original release seen here. to more closely match the probable colors, in the overexposed fashion one might see through a super telescope or visually from orbit. The dark regions which appear blue or even green in some images are exposed dark gray basaltic rock, which when particularly free of dust often appears a dark neutral gray. Another newer version of a color balance resembling the 'ground view' of the colors of the surface seen by the 'Spirit' rover can be seen here. 252K
The Gusev landing site has proven to be a fantastic place to visit, rewarding the longevity of the rover with varieties of scebery. Here we see an attempt at a 'true color' scene with minor contribution from the ambient lighting from the skies, reworked from a color calibrated mosaic by Daniel Crofty. There are three different sets of rocks with different colors or with different dust adhesion characteristics. 380K
On Sol 582 at the Gusev landing site this beautiful overview was obtained by the Spirit rover. The bright dust forms smooth dunes nearby, with medium brown and dark gray soil and rocks visible. This version suggests the effects of noticable ambient lighting from the sky in relatively dusty conditions. Reworked from a color calibrated mosaic by Daniel Crofty. 140K
This oblique view of Olympus Mons was altered by 'bending' the image to suggest the curvature of the horizon of Mars, and the gray scale image was 'colorised' to roughly approximate natural color. 124K
The Viking landers were replicated by a high fidelity copy called the Science Test Lander. I shot this mosaic of slides from the top of a ladder in 1976 and recently made a mosaic from the scanned slides. 424K.