A false-color image of the Martian area called Home Plate, with colors used to emphasize rock weathering patterns, captured by the Spirit Rover. Full size version. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell University)
A closeup of tiny spherical rocks clustered in a square inch of the Martian surface, captured by Opportunity. Full size version. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/USGS/Cathy Weitz)
A wide-angle panorama of Martian sand dunes closely resembles those on Earth. Full size version. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell University)
A closeup of the rock Robert E, in Eagle Crater, shows spherules embedded in layers of finer-grained sediment, indicating that the two formed at different times. Full size version. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/USGS)
The Opportunity Rover found these BB-sized, hematite-rich spherical rocks at its landing site, Eagle Crater. Full size version. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell University)
A Martian sunset, captured over the rim of Gusev Crater by the Spirit Rover. Full size version. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Texas A&M/Cornell)
The immense emptiness of Mars' Meridiani Plains, taken by the Opportunity Rover during the month it was stuck in a sand rippled dubbed Purgatory. Full size version. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell University)
A 160-degree view of the El Dorado Dune Field, taken over the course of several days by the Spirit Rover. Full size version. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell University)

After Ten Years on Mars, Here Are the Most Beautiful Photos Taken by the Rovers

Over the last decade, Spirit and Opportunity captured stunning photos of rocks, dunes and vistas


Ten years ago, when the rovers Spirit and Opportunity landed on Mars as part of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover mission, engineers expected them to each last 90 Martian days, about three months of Earth time. Spirit lasted a remarkable six years before getting stuck in soft sand, and ultimately losing radio contact with its minders on Earth.

Compared to Opportunity, though, Spirit was a flash in the pan. Hundreds of millions of miles away in the bitter Martian cold, Opportunity has kept on ticking—exploring new areas, taking scientific measurements and capturing beautiful photos—this entire time.

As part of a new exhibition at the National Air and Space Museum, "Spirit and Opportunity: 10 Years Roving Across Mars," John Grant and other scientists involved with the mission have curated 50 of the most scientifically significant and visually stunning photos taken by the rovers over the years from a collection of several hundred thousand images.

"It's a mix of travelogue landscapes—the kind of thing that I took when I was a kid, driving across the country—with science," Grant said at the exhibition's opening. "Every one of these images that you see here tells a story of discovery, one that goes along with a story of the pure beauty of Mars."

"Spirit and Opportunity: 10 Years Roving Across Mars" is on view at the National Air and Space Museum through September 14, 2014.

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