In the night between 24 and 25 December 2003, ESA’s Mars Express spacecraft reached its target orbit. For hundreds of technicians, engineers and scientists at the ESA control centre in Darmstadt, achieving Mars orbit was the best seasonal gift. Originally, the mission was planned to explore Mars for one Martian year, which corresponds to two Earth years – that is, until the end of 2005. Because of the outstanding performance and reliability of all seven instruments, ESA extended the mission again and again, most recently until the end of 2022. Did the planet Mars, with its unpredictable winds, want to give the ESA Mars Express team and the HRSC scientists a little treat after more than 25 years of planning, implementation and evaluation, by ‘painting’ a heart of dark mineral deposits, dozens of kilometres in size, on the south polar region? Who knows …?