”Every space mission to a new place—whether human or robotic—has to carry a camera,” Cornell University astronomer Jim Bell writes in the preface to his book Postcards from Mars, which gathers images from the rovers Spirit and Opportunity. “These cameras are the eyes that have to tell the stories of new alien worlds to the people back home who couldn’t go.”
We asked the scientists and writers who contributed to our Mars Journal to pick their favorite photos of Mars, the pictures that best tell the planet’s story. Some liked images that evoke thoughts of a violently formed, forbidding planet. Others preferred pictures of a more placid, almost serene place. Together, they reveal a portrait of a world that is in some ways alien and in other ways as familiar as some mountain and desert vistas on Earth.
The story of Mars, however, would be incomplete without a few images that in their own way and time stirred up new interest in our neighboring planet. We picked several that generated headlines worldwide and challenged our previous conceptions of Mars.