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a photographic Martian chronicle

NASA's Martian connection began early in the space age. Since that time, despite periods of austerity and relative apathy, our program of space exploration has assisted scientists in their quest to gain as much knowledge of the Red Planet as possible. The accompanying photographs reflect the results of their endeavors.

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The photograph (left) taken by Mariner 7 indicates sharply
defined features of the Red Planet. The dark linear area to the
right is the Cerberus canal. The bright ring at upper right
appears to be a crater at least 200 miles in diameter and is
located in the area known as Elysium. It is now spring in the
southern hemisphere, distinguishable by the cap border slowly
shrinking in size, revealing more of the Mare Australe region
each day.
All four craters shown here (below) reveal frost
accumulation, indicated by the white shading in the crater
centers. The three largest craters are located at the edge of rough
terrain and the largest crater exhibits a scalloped edge which
could have resulted from mechanical erosion.

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A decade after NASA's Martian activities commenced, exploration efforts continued; the Mariner 9 spacecraft (above, with thermal blanket covering the retro engine) was launched 30 May 1971 and entered orbit around Mars just under six months later, on 13 November. The Mariner 9, the first man-made object to orbit another planet, was fully attitude-stabilized, using the Sun and the Star Canopus as the basic attitude references.. Mariner 9 photographed the moons of Mars (below), mapped 100 percent of the planet, and returned data proving that Mars was geologically alive.

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