No matter how many gorgeous photos of Mars I see from visiting spacecraft, I still have this perception of the landscape of Mars as being hard, dry, sharp-edged; like a red-hued chunk of volcanic rock that you have to handle carefully lest you get cut.
But perhaps this prejudice has been reinforced by close-up images of the barren, rough-hewn surface taken by landers and rovers.
When you take the longer view — say, from orbit — then Mars transforms. It's no longer a field of gritty ochre gravel. It's… a refreshingly cool bowl of cinnamon gelato.
A 300-km-long swath of Mars near its north pole imaged by the ESA Mars Express. Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO
Oh, yeah. Scoop me up some of that. But have a care! That dessert spoon will really stick to your lips.
This is a swath of the north polar region of Mars seen by the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter. It was taken in the Martian northern summer, of all things, in 2006. The polar cap of Mars has a permanent covering of thick water ice, coated with frozen carbon dioxide (dry ice) in the winter. In the spring and summer ...