Hand-colored image of Mars from orbit.
Photojournal: PIA14033
Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Dan Goods
Published: July 15, 1965

A "real-time data translator" machine converted a Mariner 4 digital image data into numbers printed on strips of paper. Too anxious to wait for the official processed image, employees from the Telecommunications Section at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, attached these strips side by side to a display panel and hand colored the numbers like a paint-by-numbers picture.

The first TV image of Mars, hand colored strip-by-strip, from Mariner 4 in 1965. The completed image was framed and presented to JPL director, William H. Pickering. Truly a labor of love for science!
- Kristen Erickson, NASA Science Engagement and Partnerships Director

The completed image was framed and presented to JPL director, William H. Pickering. Mariner 4 was launched on November 28, 1964 and journeyed for 228 days to the Red Planet, providing the first close-range images of Mars.

  • First Mars Image Color Key
    Color Key
  • Detail of first hand-colored Mars image
  • First Image of Mars Black and White
    Black and white image

The spacecraft carried a television camera and six other science instruments to study the Martian atmosphere and surface. The 22 photographs taken by Mariner revealed the existence of lunar type craters upon a desert-like surface. After completing its mission, Mariner 4 continued past Mars to the far side of the Sun. On December 20, 1967, all operations of the spacecraft were ended.

First Image Coloring
The first 'image' of Mars from NASA's Mariner 4 Mission team members for NASA's Mariner 4 spacecraft, incredibly anxious to see the first up-close photograph of Mars, devised a way to see the image before it made its way to Earth by color-coding binary code on strips of ticker tape. The resulting collage became known as "the first image of Mars." Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech


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