WASHINGTON – Ten years after NASA landed two rovers on Mars for a 90-day mission, one is still exploring, and the project has generated hundreds of thousands of images from the planet’s surface.
Now the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum is presenting more than 50 of the best photographs from the two rovers known as Spirit and Opportunity in an art exhibit curated by the scientists who have led the ongoing mission.
Spirit and Opportunity: 10 Years Roving Across Mars opens Thursday and includes many large-scale photographs of craters, hills, dunes, dust clouds, meteorites, rock formations and the Martian sunset. The Smithsonian’s first exhibit of art from the Martian rovers marks the 10th anniversary of the ongoing mission.
John Grant, a planetary geologist at the museum who is part of the rover mission team, organized the exhibit, in part as a travel log, with images on one side from Sprit and images from Opportunity on the other.
The rovers landed in January 2004 on opposite sides of Mars and began exploring volcanic deposits and plains, as well as meteorites and impact craters, so the exhibit also focuses on the science, Grant said.
Every one of the images you see here tells a story of discovery that goes along with the story of beauty on Mars, Grant said.
While some panoramic images clearly show the red Martian landscape, other images focus on other colors that can be found in Mars’ rocks, soil and sky.
One image of the Martian sunset shows a bluish color in the sky, which is usually pink in the daytime because of the reddish dust in the atmosphere. But it turns blue at sunset – the opposite of Earth, Squyres said.