The Mars Express
spacecraft has been photographing the Red Planet for eight years - and counting. Among other tasks, the craft is gathering evidence to help scientists evaluate whether there is - or ever was - life on Mars.
The vehicle, operated by the European Space Agency, recently sent back pictures from the Martian southern polar region. At the moment it is summer on Mars. The southern winter begins in March 2012, when the temperatures drop and more ice will accumulate.
In this color-coded image, the elevation of the Martian southern pole region drops by roughly 1,500 meters from south to north. Purple indicates the lowest lying regions with gray being the highest.