Mars is an interesting planet. It is also called the ‘Red Planet’ because of its red outward color. Mars has characteristics that relate to Earth which makes it an interesting option for habitation. Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun and also the second smallest. It was first recorded by Egyptian astronomers approximately in the second millennium BC. Let’s look at some of the other facts about Mars.
Mars received its name based on mythology and the color of its surface. Its red color is the result of the rock and dust that are rich in iron. The Greeks called it Ares after their god of war. The Romans followed suit and called the planet Mars after their god of war that was associated with the color red and that is how we now refer to it. Other cultures and countries also named the planet based on its red color. The Egyptians called it ‘Her Desher’ which means ‘red one’ and the Chinese referred to it as ‘the fire star’.
Mars is what we call a terrestrial planet. It has a thin atmosphere that consists mainly of carbon dioxide. Other elements that make up Mars’ atmosphere include argon and nitrogen. It is said that the atmosphere was thicker at one time but that it was damaged by storms. When compared to Earth, more than six of Mars will fit into the volume of the Earth. Mars has two moons.
Days and Years
One year on Mars is equal to 1.9 years. This means that a year on Mars is equal to 687 days compared to an Earth year that is 365 days. One day on Mars is 24 hours and 37 minutes compared to the Earth’s days that are 23 hours and 56 minutes. This is good news for when we finally go to live on Mars as the days won’t be that much longer.
The temperatures on Mars are extreme and create a very hostile environment for any living thing. The average temperature you can expect on Mars is -81 degrees Fahrenheit compared to the average of 57 degrees Fahrenheit on Earth. Like I said, it is an extreme and hostile environment.
Mars has two moons that are called Phobos and Deimos. They were named after the horses that pulled the Greek god of war’s chariot. American astronomers discovered the two moons in 1977. Scientists believe that the two moons are asteroids that were captured. This is based on the similarities of the moon surfaces to those of asteroids found in the outer asteroid belt.
Mars and Earth
Mars is being considered as an ideal planet for humans to expand to. Despite the drastic temperatures and other unfriendly conditions, some things about Mars are similar enough to make living there a possibility.
One of the similarities is the landmass. Earth and Mars have approximately the same landmass. About two-thirds of the Earth’s surface is covered with water and scientists believe that Mars was also once covered with water. The gravity on Mars is less and you will be able to leap about 3 times higher than on Earth. You will also weigh a lot less on Mars.
Scientists could start studying Mars before missions were attempted because of rocks falling to Earth. Meteorites from Mars have orbited Earth for millions of years before falling to Earth. Scientists picked up on these debris pieces and were able to start studying Mars and its profile before any contact was made with the planet.
Missions to Mars
NASA and other parties have been trying to put people on Mars for decades. There are several reasons why it has not yet succeeded. The attempts to discover more about Mars started during the mid-nineties and the first spacecraft was sent there in 1960. Since then, there have been approximately 68 missions.
Since 2014, 40 missions to Mars were attempted of which only 18 were successful. When we talk about missions to Mars, it refers to sending orbiters, rovers, and landers and also flybys. Missions fail for different reasons including the distance of Mars from Earth and a lack of specific technology.
Solar System Records
Mars is unique in many ways and despite its small size compared to the other plants in the solar system, it holds a few records. It is home to the tallest mountain in the solar system. The mountain is called ‘Olympus Mons’ and is in actual fact a shield volcano that is believed to still be active.
Mars is also at the top when it comes to dust storms. The storms on Mars are especially bad and can last for months. The main reason for the severity is because its trips around the Sun take longer than most other planets.
Every two years, Mars appears to be moving backwards or from east to west. This is called retrograde. Retrograde is an illusion that occurs because of the way in which Mars and Earth orbit the sun. In earlier years, astronomers found this phenomenon very strange and tried to find some mystical meaning for it. Today, we know that it is simply an illusion that takes place every two years for a few months.
Putting People on Mars
For many decades now, NASA and other organisations like SpaceX have been working on putting people on Mars. One of the reasons is to have a backup planet in case Earth ceases to exist and another is to make the human race inter-planetary. Despite the many decades of studies and sending spacecraft to Mars, we are still unable to get humans to Mars. There many different reasons for this and we discuss this in a later post. However, despite the setbacks, it seems that people are more determined than ever to make putting people on Mars a reality.
Mars is a fascinating planet. Despite its harsh conditions, scientists and researchers believe that it will be possible for humans to live on Mars if we had the right technology. So, the experiments and the quests continue and some predict that we will be able to go to Mars within the next decade or so.a