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Hey, how’d they get those men on Mars?

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When Curiosity landed three weeks ago today, many news stories were quick to point out it is the biggest rover to date. They said it’s car-sized. But what does that mean – are we talking a Hummer or a Mini? And how did its predecessors measure up? While snooping around NASA’s Mars mission sites, I found these gems. Why they didn’t get more traction in the media when Curiosity landed, I’ll never know. But if it’s our job here at Symbiartic to point out images in the service of science that excel for one reason or another, well, I’d be remiss if I didn’t pull these out of the NASA archives to share with you.

Meet your Mars Rovers:

3 Generations of Mars Rovers

Three Generations of Mars Rovers. NASA/JPL-Caltech

Now, astute readers will wonder how NASA took this photograph since the actual rovers are hundreds of miles apart on the Martian surface and were constructed over the course of a decade. Pictured here are the earth-bound, test-rover “cousins” of the true rovers: Sojourner (the shrimpy one, front and center), Spirit & Opportunity (mid-sized, respectable), and Curiosity (now, that’s a rover!). But that is immaterial – what matters is that this image shows context and context draws people in. That’s why I like the following image even better. The addition of people for scale is a simple trick, but it never gets old. In essence, you’re relating the information in the photo back to the viewer. And let’s face it – we never get old, do we!? (Insert New Yorker cartoon with caption, “Tell me more about me, dahlingk!”)

3 Generations of Mars Rovers plus dudes

Three Generations of Mars Rovers plus two dudes for scale. Hey, how'd they get those men on Mars? NASA/JPL-Caltech

Kalliopi Monoyios About the Author: Kalliopi Monoyios is an independent science illustrator. She has illustrated several popular science books including Neil Shubin's Your Inner Fish and The Universe Within, and Jerry Coyne's Why Evolution is True. Find her at Follow on Twitter @symbiartic.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. Postman1 10:47 pm 08/30/2012

    Anyone care to take a bet that this image will hit the internet as proof that it is all fake?
    “I saw it on Scientific American! Proof it was in Arizona!” LOL!

    Link to this
  2. 2. Quinn the Eskimo 8:41 pm 09/2/2012

    Of course it’s all fake! Mars is over 300 million miles away. Nobody can drive there. No gas stations. Silly.

    Link to this
  3. 3. 2:19 pm 09/24/2012

    Ha! First one to spot this on Town Hall wins a special prize (bobblehead Tiktaalik, anyone?!) from Symbiartic :)

    Link to this
  4. 4. Glendon Mellow 12:13 pm 09/26/2012

    …you have bobblehead Tiktaaliks???

    Link to this

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