The exploration of Mars has spanned hundreds of years, starting with the invention of the telescope in the 1600s. It's difficult to comprehend what it takes to launch something into space, let alone sending a probe on a 154-million mile trek to capture information and images of another planet. From the first images of the surface of the red planet in the 1960s to the images from the Mars Curiosity rover, see highlights from the most successful missions that have shaped our understanding of the planet and its environment. Here, Valles Marineris and the south pole have a hazy appearance due to a dust storm three weeks before this photo was taken.
Four decades of innovation have dramatically shaped our perceptions of Mars – from the first grainy images to 360-degree panoramas in color. TIME’s photo editors roundup the awe-inspiring images from the most outstanding expeditions, including the Mars Curiosity rover.