As we look at the numerous graben and valleys that wind through the Martian highlands, it is not always clear which geological processes created them.
Observing a seasonal phenomenon has its own special appeal on Mars. As the planet's rotational axis has a slightly greater inclination to that of Earth, our planetary neighbour experiences distinct seasons too – except these last around twice as long since it takes nearly two Earth years for Mars to orbit the Sun.
Nereidum Montes, a chain of mountains over 1000 kilometres long, is part of the northern rim of Argyre Basin, the second largest impact basin on Mars. On 6 June 2012, the HRSC camera on board ESA's Mars Express spacecraft, which is operated by DLR, photographed a part of this mountain range
Mars is clearly much smaller than Earth, but it can still come up with impressive superlatives. Several landscape features have unquestionably enormous dimensions – at over 21 kilometres in height, Olympus Mons is the largest volcano in the Solar System; the Hellas impact basin is more than 2000 kilometres across and eight kilometres deep – but particularly spectacular is the Valles Marineris canyon system
On 8 June 2012, the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC), operated by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) on board ESA's Mars Express spacecraft, acquired images of a region inside the Argyre Impact Basin, which is 1800 kilometres across and five kilometres deep.
Hadley Crater on Mars has been subject to several impacts by large asteroids in the course of its history. The 'craters within a crater' formed in this way give us a view over two kilometres into the Martian crust.
On 27 April 2012, the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) operated by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) on board ESA's Mars Express spacecraft acquired images of part of Ladon Valles. These images show an area north of the Holden and Eberswalde craters in Mars' southern highlands.
On 17 April 2012, the High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) operated by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) on board ESA's Mars Express spacecraft acquired images of a region in Melas Dorsa.
The Arabia Terra region on Mars is populated with numerous craters, filled with deposits of various materials that, over time, have become severely eroded. The latest images acquired by the HRSC camera show many features of this kind, known as 'yardangs', in Danielson Crater; the different types of material these contain could be explained by changes in the climate.
Valles Marineris, the largest canyon system in the Solar System and a potential refuge for extraterrestrial life, is 7000 metres deep and stretches for some 4000 kilometres along the Martian equator.
New images from the HRSC camera on board the Mars Express spacecraft show numerous dried up river valleys and various former crater lakes in the Acidalia Planitia region. They are further evidence of the existence of water on the surface of Mars for an extended period of time. Such areas are of particular interest to the search for microbial life, which may have developed here under these circumstances.
In the Tharsis volcanic region, almost the size of Europe, the Martian highlands have arched up into a shield several thousand metres in height as a consequence of volcanic processes. Quite a few unusual topographic features can be observed there.
Ius Chasma is one of the main graben in Valles Marineris, one of the largest known canyon systems in the Solar System. Over a length of 940 kilometres, Ius Chasma forms the northern boundary between the western half of this enormous valley system and the Martian highlands.
Amateur astronomers who on occasion observe Mars through the eyepiece of their telescopes are quite familiar with the region of Syrtis Major; when observing conditions are good, it can be easily identified as a dark spot on Mars.
Tempe Terra is located at the northeastern edge of the Tharsis volcanic region and forms the transition zone between the southern highlands and the northern lowlands.
Phlegra Montes is a mountainous massif on Mars that extends for several hundreds of kilometres from the northeastern part of the Elysium volcanic region (between 30 and 50 degrees north) to deep into the northern lowlands.
On 8 November at 21:16 CET (02:16 on 9 November, local time) the Russian Phobos-Grunt (Phobos Soil) spacecraft began its journey to Mars on board a Zenit-2 rocket that lifted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The volcanoes on Mars are true giants. As well as being home to the largest volcano in our Solar System, the 24-kilometre-high Olympus Mons, and its three neighbouring shield volcanoes Arsia, Pavonis and Ascraeus, there are a number of less-frequently observed volcano complexes on the Tharsis bulge near the Martian equator that also reach impressive heights. With a base measuring 155 by 125 kilometres, the 8000-metre Tharsis Tholus may only be a ‘mid-range’ volcano, but when measured against terrestrial standards, this volcano is truly gigantic. The High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) operated by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) on board ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft acquired images of Tharsis Tholus over the course of several orbits, which have been combined to form a mosaic image with a resolution of 14 metres per pixel. The images show an area located at 13 degrees north and 268 degrees east.
The Ares Vallis outflow channel meanders for more than 1700 kilometres across the southern highlands of Mars and ends in a 100-kilometre-wide delta-like region in the lowlands of Chryse Planitia. On 11 May 2011, parts of the Ares Vallis channel were photographed using the High Resolution Stereo Camera operated by the German Aerospace Center on board ESA's Mars Express spacecraft.
The final contenders in NASA’s Discovery programme, which invites scientists to propose unmanned planetary missions, have been announced. The Geophysical Monitoring Station (GEMS) for Mars mission proposal has made it to the final and decisive round of decision-making. The German Aerospace Center (DLR) is significantly involved with a geophysical experiment aimed at investigating the interior of Mars. The aim of the mission, which may launch in early 2016, is to obtain our first ever impression of the 'interior life' of Mars through a series of direct measurements.