The Red Planet is a fascinating place. It’s the only planet in our solar system that has been visited by spacecraft from Earth. It has a thin atmosphere and is covered in dust. It’s thought to have once had water on its surface, but today it is a dry and barren world.
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The Red Planet is a rocky world that is smaller than Earth. It has a diameter of about 4,220 miles (6,780 kilometers). That’s about half the size of Earth. The Red Planet is also much drier and colder than Earth. And it has a thin atmosphere that contains mostly carbon dioxide.
The History of the Red Planet
The red planet has been a fascination for humanity since ancient times. It is the only planet in our solar system that is named after a god. The Egyptians called it “Horus” while the Romans knew it as “Mars”.
The red planet is also special because it is the closest to Earth in terms of size and appearance. This has led to many myths and stories about the two planets being linked, such as the famous “canals of Mars” which were first seen through a telescope by Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli in 1877.
However, it was not until 1965 that we got our first close-up view of Mars when NASA’s Mariner 4 spacecraft flew past the planet and sent back 21 black and white images. Since then, we have sent many more robotic explorers to Mars including the highly successful Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity.
The Physical Characteristics of the Red Planet
The Red Planet gets its name from the dusty, red appearance that is the result of iron oxide—rust—on its surface. Mars is only about half the size of Earth, with a diameter of just over 4,000 miles (6,800 kilometers). It has a thin atmosphere made up mostly of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and argon.
Mars has two small moons, Phobos and Deimos, which orbit close to the planet’s surface. Mars also has the largest volcano in the solar system, Olympus Mons, which is about three times taller than Mount Everest on Earth.
The average temperature on Mars is much colder than on Earth. This is because Mars is farther away from the Sun. The Sun looks like a little more than half as bright in the Martian sky as it does in ours. However, there can be huge swings in temperature from one day to the next—even at the same location! In some regions near the Martian poles, temperatures can plunge as low as minus 195 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 125 degrees Celsius).
The Atmosphere of the Red Planet
The Martian atmosphere is much thinner than Earth’s atmosphere. It is made up of 96% carbon dioxide, 1.9% argon, 0.146% nitrogen, 0.056% oxygen, and 0.002% water vapor. The atmospheric pressure on the surface of Mars varies from 600 Pascals (0.087 psi) on Olympus Mons, the tallest mountain in the solar system, to just 9 Pascals (0.0013 psi) in the Martian lowlands
The Surface of the Red Planet
Mars is the red planet. It is red because of the iron oxide that covers its surface. The iron oxide makes up about 15% of the planet’s crust. Mars has two moons, Phobos and Deimos. Phobos is the larger of the two moons and it orbits closer to Mars than Deimos does.
The Moons of the Red Planet
Mars has two moons, Phobos and Deimos, which are small and passing close to the planet. Phobos orbits closer to Mars than any other moon in the solar system does to its host planet.
The Future of the Red Planet
In the coming years, Mars will be a focus for robotic and human exploration as we search for answers about the Red Planet’s past, present and future.
NASA’s Mars Exploration Program is dedicated to the scientific study of Mars as a planetary system in order to understand the formation and early evolution of our solar system. By advancing our understanding of Mars, we also advance our understanding of the Earth, including our own origins and future.
The long-term goal of the Mars Exploration Program is to establish proof-of-concept operations on Mars that will lead to a sustainable human presence on the planet. This will require developing new technologies and systems that will enable humans to live and work on Mars for extended periods of time. It also will require a better understanding of Martian conditions, both past and present, to ensure the safety of astronauts who will one day journey to the Red Planet.