Out-of-this-world Mars photos celebrate rovers' 10th anniversary

New exhibit pays homage to Mars rovers' photo... 01:55

WASHINGTON -- It was 10 years ago that two Mars Rovers -- Spirit and Opportunity -- after a journey of seven months, bounced onto the Martian surface and began to explore while beaming hundreds of thousands of photos back to Earth.

John Grant is the curator of a new exhibit of Mars rover photos at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington. He says one of his favorite photos is of the tracks from Opportunity.

"And it is a very desolate plain showing how the rover is just sort of moving by itself across the surface of Mars," he says. "Reminiscent of a ship out in the middle of the ocean."

Tracks from Opportunity rover. NASA
 Asked to describe the impetus for putting the exhibition together, Grant says, "Well, we're celebrating not only the tenth anniversary of the Mars exploration rovers -- which were supposed to last only about three months -- but what we are really trying to do is portray not only the excitement of the discoveries that were made by the rovers, but also portray the beauty that is Mars."

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Some photos make visitors feel like they're standing on Mars, like one of a sunset.


View of the sun setting from Mars. NASA
 "It created this image that is iconic in the sense that everybody on the Earth has seen a sunset, and they look at this image, and it's so familiar in some ways, but a little bit alien, a little bit different in others," Grant says. "Every day, the images come down, and you're looking at something no one has ever seen before -- no human being."

Grant hopes the exhibit will help pass along his passion for discovery to a new generation of scientists.

"When the kids come in, I want them to look at these images and say, 'I can do that. I want to do this. I want to go to Mars and be that person that stands on the planet,'" he says.

A planet that is even more photogenic than the Mars of science fiction.

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    Chip Reid

    Chip Reid is CBS News' national correspondent.