Mars Missions and Science

This multimedia gallery assembles and organizes Mars content on the Scientific Visualization Studio website. Highlights of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s animations, visualizations, videos, images and graphics relating to Mars science and missions can be found here.

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Instrument: MOMA

The Mars Organic Molecule Analyzer (MOMA) is the largest and most complex instrument on the European Space Agency's Rosalind Franklin rover. MOMA was built by NASA, and will search for evidence of past or present life on Mars.
  • Searching for Signs of Life on Mars
    One of the biggest questions in planetary science is whether life ever arose on Mars, and NASA and the European Space Agency are sending a cutting-edge instrument to the red planet to find out. The Mars Organic Molecule Analyzer, or MOMA, is a sophisticated suite of technologies that squeezes a lab full of chemistry equipment into a package the size of a toaster. MOMA will travel to Mars aboard ESA's Rosalind Franklin rover (formerly ExoMars), where it will search for evidence of past or present life.
  • Mars Organic Molecule Analyzer: Animations
    This media resource page contains animations of the MOMA instrument, including its gas chromatograph, linear ion trap, and ultraviolet laser. The page also includes animations of targeted organic molecules and their mass spectra.
  • Mars Organic Molecule Analyzer: Footage
    This media resource page contains broadcast-quality footage and still images of MOMA during construction and testing at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. Highlights include preparation for thermal vacuum chamber testing, and preparation for electromagnetic interference testing.

Instrument: SAM

The Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) suite of instruments in the Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity) rover is designed to study the present and past habitability of Mars by exploring molecular and elemental chemistry relevant to life.
  • Seasonal Variations in Oxygen at Gale Crater
    For the first time in the history of space exploration, scientists have measured the seasonal changes in the gases that fill the air directly above the surface of Gale Crater on Mars. As a result, they noticed something baffling: oxygen, the gas many Earth creatures use to breathe, behaves in a way that so far scientists cannot explain through any known chemical processes.
  • Ancient Organics Discovered on Mars
    Since arriving at Mars in 2012, NASA's Curiosity rover has drilled into rocks in search of organics – molecules containing carbon. Organics are the building blocks of all life on Earth, though they can also come from non-living sources. The surface of Mars readily destroys these molecules, making them difficult to detect. Now, Curiosity has discovered ancient organics that have been preserved in rocks for billions of years. This finding helps scientists better understand the habitability of early Mars, and it paves the way for future missions to the Red Planet.
  • Ancient Organics Discovered on Mars - Broadcast Graphics
    NASA-TV graphics illustrating Curiosity's findings on Mars, broadcast on June 7, 2018 from Goddard Space Flight Center.
  • Possible Methane Sources and Sinks on Mars
    This illustration portrays possible ways that methane might be added to Mars' atmosphere (sources) and removed from the atmosphere (sinks). NASA's Curiosity Mars rover has detected fluctuations in methane concentration in the atmosphere, implying both types of activity occur in the modern environment of Mars.
  • SAM Organics and Methane Findings
    There’s big news coming out of the Sample Analysis at Mars instrument suite (SAM) on NASA’s Curiosity rover. For the first time, organic matter has definitively been detected on Mars. In addition to finding organic compounds in rocks, SAM has also detected sharp increases and decreases in methane levels in the atmosphere. MSL participating scientist Danny Glavin explains these findings and what they tell us about our search for life on the Red Planet.
  • SAM Sings Happy Birthday
    On August 5, 2012 (PDT), NASA's Curiosity rover touched down on the Red Planet. Aboard was the Sample Analysis at Mars instrument, or SAM, the most sophisticated chemistry lab ever sent to another planet. Now, on the first anniversary of the landing, engineers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center are using SAM to "sing" Happy Birthday to Curiosity.
  • Curiosity Rover Explores Mars with SAM
    NASA's Curiosity rover analyzed its first solid sample of Mars with a variety of instruments, including the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite. Developed at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., SAM is a portable chemistry lab tucked inside the Curiosity rover. SAM examines the chemistry of samples it ingests, checking particularly for chemistry relevant to whether an environment can support or could have supported life.
  • SAM Edited Resource Collection
    This video is a collection of various SAM assets, including sections of the Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity) rover animation and Kennedy Space Center footage of MSL assembly and payload fairing.
  • SAM B-Roll
    Broadcast-quality b-roll clips of integration, testing, and fabrication of instruments on board the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) suite of instruments.
  • SAM Interviews
    Interviews with various Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) personnel, including Paul Mahaffy, SAM Principal Investigator.
  • SAM Overview
    Overview of the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) suite of instruments inside the Curiosity Rover.
  • SAM Employee Profiles
    These videos give an inside perspective on what it's like to work on the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) suite of instruments! Learn more about the people who work on SAM here.
  • SAM Teaser Trailer
    Short teaser trailer for the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite installed in the Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity) rover.
  • The Mars Chamber
    The Mars chamber is a box—about the size of a refrigerator—that re-creates the temperatures, pressures, and atmosphere of the Martian surface, essentially creating a Mars environment on Earth! Scientists and engineers use this chamber to test experiments on the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument suite—a fully functioning chemistry lab aboard the Curiosity Mars rover. By re-creating Mars on Earth and using an exact duplicate of SAM, scientists can "pre-run" experiments on SAM to make sure everything will work properly on the Mars rover. Learn more about the Mars chamber by watching this video!
  • Mass Spectrometry 101
    What do you do if you have a sample from another planet, and you want to find out if it contains a certain molecule...maybe even one that will reveal that the planet can sustain life? When scientists face a situation like this, they employ an amazing tool: the mass spectrometer. It does the hard work of separating out materials, allowing scientists to look very closely at a sample and see what's inside. Watch this video for an introduction to mass spectrometry.

Mission: MAVEN

MAVEN is the first spacecraft devoted to understanding the upper atmosphere of Mars, and its role in the transformation of the Martian climate.
  • Mars Patchy Proton Aurora (Graphic)
    NASA’s MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) mission and the United Arab Emirates’ EMM (Emirates Mars Mission) have released joint observations of dynamic proton aurora events at Mars. Remote auroral observations by EMM paired with in-situ plasma observations made by MAVEN open new avenues for understanding the Martian atmosphere.
  • Dust Storms Accelerate Water Loss (Infographic)
    Scientists using an instrument aboard NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN, or MAVEN, spacecraft have discovered that water vapor near the surface of the Red Planet is lofted higher into the atmosphere than anyone expected was possible. There, it is easily destroyed by electrically charged gas particles, or ions, and lost to space. The warm summer temperatures and strong winds associated with dust storms help water vapor reach the uppermost parts of the atmosphere, where it can easily be broken into its constituent oxygen and hydrogen, which then escape to space. Previously, scientists thought that water vapor was trapped close to the Martian surface like it is on Earth.
  • First Map of Mars Electric Currents
    Unlike Earth, Mars lacks a protective global magnetic field to shield its upper atmosphere from the solar wind. Instead, the solar wind crashes into the upper atmosphere and its magnetic field lines drape around the planet. This creates an induced magnetosphere that tugs on charged particles in the Mars upper atmosphere, generating electric currents. Now, MAVEN’s detailed measurements of the magnetic environment surrounding Mars have revealed the shape of these electric currents for the first time.
  • Mars Electric Current Systems: Visualizations
    NASA scientists used magnetic field measurements from the Mars Atmosphere and Volatiles Evolution (MAVEN) orbiter to make the first quantitative global map of the induced currents that shape the Martian induced magnetosphere. Mapping the currents reveals how the solar wind's energy transfers into the induced magnetosphere where it powers escape of the Martian atmosphere.
  • Mars and Solar Wind Simulation
    This visualization simulates charged particles (ions) in the Mars upper atmosphere interacting with the solar wind and escaping to space. Red and yellow particles represent high-velocity ions that escape the planet, while greens and blues represent low-velocity ions that remain bound to Mars. Time is frozen in the visualization, and a camera move reveals the structure of the system.
  • MAVEN Observes Solar Particle Velocities
    In this visualization, a series of MAVEN’s orbits are shown from March 8-9, 2015. During these orbits, MAVEN’s particles and fields instruments observed the speed and direction of charged particles in the solar wind flowing past Mars – represented as yellow spikes pointing from the planet’s dayside toward its nightside. MAVEN’s magnetometers also recorded variations in the strength and direction of the solar wind’s magnetic field – represented as green spikes at an angle to the charged particle velocities.
  • Mars Sporadic E Layer: Produced Video
    The MAVEN spacecraft has discovered “layers” and “rifts” in the electrically-charged part of the upper atmosphere (the ionosphere) of Mars. This phenomenon, called "sporadic E," is very common at Earth and causes unpredictable disruptions to radio communications. However, we do not fully understand it because it forms at altitudes that are difficult to explore at Earth. The unexpected discovery by MAVEN shows that Mars is a unique laboratory to explore and better understand this highly disruptive phenomenon.
  • Mars Sporadic E Layer: Animations
    This resource page contains artist concept animations featured in the Mars Sporadic E Layer produced video.
  • Mars Wind Currents: Produced Video
    MAVEN is the first spacecraft specifically designed to study the Mars upper atmosphere, in order to better understand the evolution of its climate. Now, scientists have analyzed several years of data from MAVEN’s NGIMS instrument and produced the first map of wind currents in the Martian thermosphere (a layer of the upper atmosphere). This map led to an unexpected and surprising discovery – disturbances in high-altitude wind currents on Mars are caused by terrain features such as mountains and valleys on the planet’s surface.
  • Mars Wind Currents: Visualizations
    This resource page contains data visualizations featured in the Mars Wind Currents produced video.
  • Mars Wind Currents: Animations
    This resource page contains artist concept animations featured in the Mars Wind Currents produced video.
  • MAVEN Aerobraking (Graphic)
    In February 2019, MAVEN began an aerobraking campaign to tighten its orbit around Mars. When the campaign finishes in late April, MAVEN's furthest distance from the planet will be reduced by about 1,700 kilometers and its orbital period will be shortened by an hour. The aerobraking campaign will improve MAVEN's ability to relay data from rovers on the surface of Mars, while also continuing to carry out its science objectives by studying the Mars upper atmosphere.
  • Terraforming the Martian Atmosphere (Infographic)
    One of the challenges of terraforming Mars is to increase its atmospheric pressure, which is currently less than 1% that of Earth. The Martian polar caps, minerals, and soil could all provide sources of carbon dioxide and water to thicken the atmosphere. Unfortunately, a new study by the MAVEN science team finds that processing all sources available on Mars would only increase the pressure to about 7% that of Earth, far short of what is needed.
  • Mars Evolution from Wet to Dry
    These Mars wet-to-dry animations were originally created to accompany Invisible Mars, a Science-on-a-Sphere live presentation for the MAVEN mission. The animations have been rendered for use in other formats, including the NASA Hyperwall.
  • Mars Proton Aurora
    On Earth, the northern and southern lights occur when the solar wind (electrically charged particles from the Sun) follow our planet's geomagnetic field lines to the poles and collide with the upper atmosphere. Mars lacks a global magnetic field, but solar wind protons can still cause ultraviolet aurorae on Mars thanks to a process called "charge exchange."
  • 2017 AGU Habitability Press Conference
    The search for life beyond Earth is riding a surge of creativity and innovation. Following a gold rush of exoplanet discovery over the past two decades, it is time to tackle the next step: determining which of the known exoplanets are proper candidates for life. Scientists from NASA and two universities presented new results dedicated to this task at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union on Dec. 13, 2017, in New Orleans, Louisiana. University of Colorado Boulder scientist David Brain discussed the evolution of the Martian atmosphere as an exoplanet analogue, using findings from the MAVEN mission.
  • Mars Argon Lost to Space (Infographic)
    Solar wind and radiation are responsible for stripping the Martian atmosphere, according to results from NASA's MAVEN spacecraft. By measuring light and heavy isotopes of argon in the Martian atmosphere, scientists have determined that a process called sputtering removed 65% of Mars' argon to space, along with the majority of other gases like carbon dioxide. Over billions of years, this transformed Mars from a hospitable environment into the cold, dry planet that we see today. Learn more about the finding from this print-resolution infographic.
  • Ultraviolet Mars Reveals Cloud Formation
    Ultraviolet images from MAVEN's IUVS instrument were used to make a time-lapse movie of rapid cloud formation on Mars on July 9-10, 2016.
  • Mars Evolution from Wet to Dry for Planetariums
    Scientists think that billions of years ago, the atmosphere of Mars was much denser and warm enough to support rivers, lakes, and perhaps even oceans of water. As the planet cooled and lost its global magnetic field, the solar wind and solar storms eroded away to space a significant amount of the planet’s atmosphere and water, turning Mars into the cold, arid desert that we see today. This animation depicts Mars transitioning from wet to dry. It is formatted in a square aspect ratio for planetariums and available in 4k resolution.
  • Solar Wind Strips Martian Atmosphere
    Unlike Earth, Mars lacks a global magnetic field to deflect the stream of charged particles continuously blowing from the Sun. Instead, the solar wind crashes into the Mars upper atmosphere and can accelerate ions into space. Now, for the first time, NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft has observed this process in action – by measuring the speed and direction of ions escaping from Mars.
  • Solar Wind and Mars Bow Shock
    Mars lacks a global magnetic field to deflect the incoming solar wind, so charged particles from the Sun slam into the Mars upper atmosphere and pile up in a bow shock ahead of the planet. The inner boundary of this bow shock reaches the Mars ionosphere, and can accelerate ions to escape velocities. The visualizations on this page compare a simulated Mars bow shock with data taken from the MAVEN spacecraft.
  • Science Results Live Shot
    On Thursday, November 5, 2015, NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission (MAVEN) has released its first results showing how Mars is losing its atmosphere to space. These results will help scientists understand why Mars' climate has changed, and why the planet has evolved from being warm and wet to cold and dry. Scientists were available Friday, November 6 to discuss these results, and what we can learn from them.
  • Mapping Mars' Upper Atmosphere
    High above the thin Martian skies, NASA’s MAVEN spacecraft is carrying out a mission: determine how Mars lost its early atmosphere, and with it, its water. Principal Investigator Bruce Jakosky discusses MAVEN's early science observations and its stellar occultation campaigns.
  • Stellar Occultations
    While previous orbiters have peered down at the Martian surface, MAVEN is spending part of its time gazing at the stars, observing the Martian atmosphere through a series of stellar occultations.
  • Mars Orbital Coverage
    MAVEN’s orbit gives it the most comprehensive view of the Martian atmosphere of any spacecraft to date. The combination of MAVEN’s north-to-south orbit and Mars’ eastward rotation provides a complete picture of the Martian atmosphere.
  • Deep Dip Orbit
    MAVEN is on a more elliptical orbit than many previous spacecraft, allowing it to study the interaction of the Martian atmosphere with the solar wind at varying altitudes. During the periodic "deep dip" campaigns, MAVEN's orbit is lowered to only 125 km at closest approach, dipping into the Mars upper atmosphere to study it in situ.
  • Investigating the Martian Atmosphere
    The Martian surface bears ample evidence of flowing water in its youth, from ancient crater lakes and riverbeds to minerals that only form in water. But today Mars is cold and dry, and scientists think that the loss of Mars' water may have been caused by the loss of its early atmosphere. NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission, or MAVEN, will be the first spacecraft devoted to studying the Red Planet's upper atmosphere, in an effort to understand how the Martian climate has changed over time.
  • Voices of MAVEN
    On September 21, 2014 EDT, NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission, or MAVEN, went into orbit around the Red Planet. Its goal: to understand how a changing atmosphere transformed Mars from a warm, wet environment in its youth to the desert world that we see today. Building such a mission and sending it to Mars is a hugely complex task, requiring the close coordination of hundreds of individuals around the country. In this video, several of the team members who made the mission possible share their experiences of working on MAVEN.
  • Goddard Goes to Mars
    The Martian climate remains one of the solar system's biggest mysteries: although cold and dry today, myriad surface features on Mars carved by flowing water attest to a much warmer, wetter past. What caused this dramatic transition? Scientists think that climate change on Mars may be due to solar wind erosion of the early atmosphere, and NASA's MAVEN mission will test this hypothesis. Project Manager David F. Mitchell discusses MAVEN and the Goddard Space Flight Center's role in sending it to the Red Planet.
  • Targeting Mars
    If you want to send a spacecraft from Earth to Mars, how would you get it there? You can't aim straight at the Red Planet, because it's moving around the Sun significantly slower than the Earth. Instead, you'll have to wait for up to 26 months for a launch window, then carefully aim at a moving target. In November 2013, the controllers of NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution spacecraft did just that.
  • Science Orbit Visualization
    This visualization shows how the MAVEN spacecraft orbit changes as it progresses from the initial, highly elliptical entry orbit to a somewhat less elliptical orbit and finally to the science orbit.
  • Mars Orbit Insertion Highlights
    The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution spacecraft arrived at Mars on September 21, 2014 EDT. NASA-TV broadcast a 70-minute live program as MAVEN executed a dramatic engine burn to achieve Martian orbit. This page contains highlights from the MAVEN Mars Orbit Insertion broadcast.
  • Mars Orbit Insertion Animations
    These animations depict MAVEN's arrival at Mars on September 21, 2014, and the ensuing science instrument deployments. The animations begin with MAVEN's orbital insertion engine burn near the Martian north pole. The deployments include MAVEN's LPW, SWEA and APP instruments.
  • Mars Orbit Insertion Visualization
    The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution spacecraft was launched on a ten-month journey to Mars on November 18, 2013. This visualization shows MAVEN's approach and orbit insertion around Mars. MAVEN's initial orbit is highly elliptical. The tail behind MAVEN changes to red to indicate the period during which thrusters are fired for orbit insertion. A separate visualization shows the transition from the insertion orbit to the more circular science orbit.
  • Cruise Phase Visualization
    The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution spacecraft was launched on a ten-month journey to Mars on November 18, 2013. The visualizations on this page show MAVEN's arcing path from Earth to Mars.
  • Launch and Deployment Animations
    This animation follows the MAVEN spacecraft's journey to Mars - from launch on an Atlas V rocket, through its solar panel deployments, to its dramatic engine burn during Mars orbit insertion
  • MAVEN Launch
    On November 18, 2013, the MAVEN spacecraft launched on an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida. This page contains highlights of the launch, available for download in broadcast-quality HD.
  • Pre-Launch Live Shot
    Spacecraft footage and interview with Dr. Jim Garvin, previewing the launch of NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission on November 18, 2013.
  • Principal Investigator and Project Manager Interviews
    Principal Investigator Bruce Jakosky and Project Manager David F. Mitchell discuss NASA's MAVEN mission, and its goal of understanding the evolution of the Martian climate.
  • Mission Overview with Principal Investigator
    Ancient riverbeds, crater lakes and flood channels all attest to Mars's warm, watery past. So how did the Red Planet evolve from a once hospitable world into the cold, dry desert that we see today? One possibility is that Mars lost its early atmosphere, allowing its water to escape into space, and NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft will investigate just that. On September 25, 2013, MAVEN Principal Investigator Bruce Jakosky delivered a presentation at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, discussing NASA's next mission to Mars. An edited version appears below.
  • Mars Transition Wet to Dry
    Billions of years ago when the Red Planet was young, it appears to have had a thick atmosphere that was warm enough to support oceans of liquid water – a critical ingredient for life. The animation shows how the surface of Mars might have appeared during this ancient clement period, beginning with a flyover of a Martian lake. The artist's concept is based on evidence that Mars was once very different. Rapidly moving clouds suggest the passage of time, and the shift from a warm and wet to a cold and dry climate is shown as the animation progresses. The lakes dry up, while the atmosphere gradually transitions from Earthlike blue skies to the dusty pink and tan hues seen on Mars today.
  • Mars Atmospheric Loss
    When you take a look at Mars, you probably wouldn't think that it looks like a nice place to live. It's dry, it's dusty, and there's practically no atmosphere. But some scientists think that Mars may have once looked like a much nicer place to live, with a thicker atmosphere, cloudy skies, and possibly even liquid water flowing over the surface. So how did Mars transform from a warm, wet world to a cold, barren desert? NASA's MAVEN spacecraft will give us a clearer idea of how Mars lost its atmosphere (and thus its water), and scientists think that several processes have had an impact.
  • Mars Climate History
    This page contains conceptual animations depicting a transition from a "Wet" Mars that may have existed long ago to the "Dry" Mars that we see today.
  • Spacecraft Animations and Statistics
    NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution mission is helping scientists to uncover the secrets of the ancient Martian climate. This page contains animations of MAVEN at Mars and spacecraft statistics.
  • Instrument Profiles
    Members of the MAVEN science team talk about the instruments that they have designed to figure out what happened to the early Martian atmosphere. The Particles and Fields package is designed to study the interaction of the solar wind with the upper atmosphere of Mars. The Neutral Gas and Ion Mass Spectrometer (NGIMS) package studies ionized gas and neutral molecules, and looks at the ratio of heavy to light isotopes of various gases. The Imaging Ultraviolet Spectrograph (IUVS) takes pictures and spectra of Mars in UV light, and the magnetometer (MAG) studies the planet's patchwork magnetic field.
  • MAVEN Spacecraft and Instrument Footage
    This page contains broadcast-quality footage of the MAVEN spacecraft and science instruments.
  • Employee Profiles (Spanish)
    Spanish-language profile videos of MAVEN Deputy Project Manager Sandra Cauffman and software engineer Carlos Gomez-Rosa.
  • The How-To Guide to Satellites
    So, you want to build a satellite? And you want to sent it to Mars? Time to roll up your sleeves and sharpen your number two pencils - building an interplanetary spacecraft is a bit more complicated than putting together that office chair that you bought last Thursday.
  • Beauty Passes and Orbit Animations
    This collection contains early animations showing the MAVEN spacecraft in orbit around Mars, as well as MAVEN's overall orbit trajectory. Newer animations can be found on the "Mars Orbit Insertion Animations" and "Launch and Deployment Animations" pages near the top of this gallery.
  • General Teaser
    The MAVEN spacecraft is an exciting new unmanned Mars mission designed specifically to study the upper atmosphere of Mars. By studying how Mars' atmosphere is lost to space today, MAVEN will allow us to answer some important questions about the history of the red planet. How did it lose its atmosphere and surface water? How did its climate change? With data from MAVEN, we'll be able to determine how Mars' climate has changed over time, and how Mars transformed from a planet that possibly had a thicker atmosphere and liquid water to the barren landscape we see today.
  • Science Teaser
    The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission (MAVEN), set to launch in 2013, will explore the planet's upper atmosphere, ionosphere and interactions with the sun and solar wind. Scientists will use MAVEN data to determine the role that loss of volatile compounds from the Mars atmosphere to space has played through time, giving insight into the history of the Martian atmosphere and climate, liquid water, and planetary habitability.

Mars Science

These pages contain animations, data visualizations, videos and graphics related to NASA's Mars Exploration Program.
  • NASA’s Newest Rover Lands on the Red Planet
    Interviews with NASA scientists and engineers on February 17-18, 2021.

    On February 18, NASA begins an epic and unparalleled exploration of Mars with the landing of its newest rover. As the first rover to land on the red planet since 2012, the Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover is the agency’s most ambitious rover yet. The SUV-sized rover will explore Mars in search of signs of ancient life, collect samples of Martian rocks and sediment for future return to Earth, study the planet’s geology and climate, and pave the way for human exploration beyond the Moon.
  • NASA's Perseverance Rover Launch Live Shots
    Interviews with NASA scientists and engineers on July 29-30, 2020.

    For decades now, NASA has been sending robotic emissaries to explore the planet Mars. Our most recent rover, Curiosity, answered many profound questions about Mars, but each time a question gets answered, many more questions get opened up. Now we are anticipating the launch of the next mission to Mars, this one called Perseverance. It will take the next step in Mars exploration by seeking to answer the question: Are there any signs that life once existed on Mars?
  • Curiosity MARDI Sidewalk Imaging
    This animation takes images from the Curiosity rover's MARDI camera and composites them together into a close-up trek over the Martian surface.
  • Phobos Electric Charging
    Mars has two moons, Phobos and Deimos. Both are small, airless bodies with irregular shapes. Because they lack protective atmospheres and magnetospheres, Phobos and Deimos are directly exposed to the solar wind for part of their orbits, creating complex electrical environments around the two moons.
  • Phobos Photobombs Hubble's Picture of Mars
    When the Hubble Space Telescope observed Mars near opposition in May 2016, a sneaky companion photobombed the picture. Phobos, the Greek personification of fear, is one of two tiny moons orbiting Mars. In 13 exposures over 22 minutes, Hubble captured a timelapse of Phobos moving through its 7-hour and 39-minute orbit.
  • Hubble's New View of Mars and Planets
    The Hubble Space Telescope is more well known for its picturesque views of nebulae and galaxies, but it's also useful for studying our own solar system's planets, including Mars. Hubble imaged Mars on May 12, 2016 - ten days before it would be on the exact opposite side of the Earth from the Sun.
  • GMM-3 Mars Gravity Map
    Goddard Mars Model (GMM) 3 is a global map of the gravity field of Mars. It was created by studying the flight paths of three Mars-orbiting spacecraft — Mars Global Surveyor, Mars Odyssey, and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The travel time and Doppler shift of radio signals sent between the spacecraft and the Earth-based dish antennas of the Deep Space Network are used to measure the position and velocity of each spacecraft. Over time, small variations in these orbital parameters allow scientists to build up an accurate and detailed gravity map of the red planet.
  • The Mars Fleet
    A fleet of robotic spacecraft is exploring the Red Planet, sending back an ever-growing flood of data. While rovers like Curiosity blaze tracks through the fine Martian soil, orbiters like MAVEN and MRO circle high overhead, gazing down at the planet's atmosphere and surface and relaying ground-based data back to Earth. The Mars fleet is providing mission controllers at NASA, the European Space Agency, and the Indian Space Research Organisation with a remote presence on Mars.
  • Phobos Falling Apart
    Weird marks on Phobos’s surface are early signs of the end for this moon of Mars.
  • Mars' Ancient Ocean
    For decades, planetary scientists have suspected that ancient Mars was a much warmer, wetter environment than it is today, but estimates of just how much water Mars has lost since its formation vary widely. Now, new isotopic measurements by researchers at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center reveal that an ocean once covered approximately twenty percent of the Martian surface. This new picture of early Mars is considerably wetter than many previous estimates, raising the odds for the ancient habitability of the Red Planet.
  • Comet Siding Spring: Narrated Video
    On October 19, 2014, Comet Siding Spring passed within 88,000 miles of Mars – just one third of the distance from the Earth to the Moon! Traveling at 33 miles per second and weighing as much as a small mountain, the comet hailed from the outer fringes of our solar system, originating in a region of icy debris known as the Oort cloud. The encounter was a rare opportunity for scientists to learn more about Oort cloud comets, the Martian atmosphere, and the solar system’s earliest ingredients.
  • Comet Siding Spring: Beauty Shots
    Artist concept animations depicting Comet Siding Spring's close flyby of Mars. This page provides views of the celestial encounter from the perspective of a spacecraft near Mars, and that of an explorer standing on the planet's surface.
  • Comet Siding Spring and Mars Fleet
    This visualization shows NASA’s fleet of Mars orbiters, landers, and rovers during the planet’s close encounter with Comet Siding Spring on October 19, 2014. During the flyby, NASA positioned its Mars fleet both to protect it from comet dust, and to make observations of the comet and its effects on the upper atmosphere of Mars.
  • Comet Siding Spring Mars Flyby
    These visualizations show MAVEN and Comet Siding Spring making their way through the solar system to a close encounter near Mars. Two wide angle views are included. The first one maintains a fixed camera above the ecliptic plane of the solar system. The second one moves the camera in a bit closer and more parallel with the ecliptic plane as the comet and MAVEN encounter the Martian region.
  • The Moons of Mars
    Explore different views of the two natural satellites of Mars.
  • The Mystery of Martian Methane
    Mike Mumma and his team of researchers at Goddard Space Flight Center have made the first definitive observations of methane in the atmosphere of Mars. The evidence of methane plumes only during certain seasons and the chemical processes that could lead to its possible sources both raise intriguing questions for future study.
  • Methane Plume on Mars
    The first definitive detection of methane in the atmosphere of Mars indicates the planet is alive in the sense that it still has geologic activity powered by heat from its interior, according to a team of NASA and university scientists. The team used spectrometer instruments attached to several telescopes to detect plumes of methane that were emitted from specific sites during the warmer seasons - spring and summer. Though nothing conclusive can yet be determined, it is possible that the detected methane was either produced by geologic processes such as the oxidation of iron (serpentinization) or by microscopic Martian life below the planet's surface. The methane released today could be produced currently, or it could be ancient methane trapped in ice 'cages' called clathrates or as gas below a sub-surface ice layer.
  • Biological Creation of Methane
    Conceptual animation depicting how biological organisms (shown as oval-shaped translucent structures) living beneath the surface of Mars may have produced methane (shown as blue spheres).
  • Geochemical Creation of Methane
    Conceptual animation depicting how geochemical processes during the course of Mars' history may have produced the methane plumes now seen in Mars' atmosphere. Here, through a process called serpentinization, methane is generated as part of a reaction involving the conversion of liquid water (seen seeping into the planet's crust), iron oxide, and carbon dioxide energized by the planet's internal heat into serpentine minerals.
  • Radiolytic Production of Methane by Microbial Life
    Animation depicting how 'extreme microbes' on Earth produce methane.
  • Mars Methane Spectroscopy
    Conceptual animation demonstrating the process of spectroscopy. The first animation demonstrates the general concept of visible-light spectroscopy by which white light is separated into its component wavelengths (colors) using a prism. The second animation demonstrates how this idea is applied to the discovery of methane in Mars' atmosphere. Because it absorbs specific wavelengths of electromagnetic energy, methane has a 'fingerprint' that can be seen as missing lines on the resulting spectograph.
  • Mars Standard-Definition Materials
    Mars has long been a focus of NASA missions and research. This gallery contains standard-definition visualizations of NASA's Mars data, missions, and science.