Ever since initial probes were successfully sent to Mars back in the late 20th century, man has gradually unraveled many of its mysteries. Thanks to technological advancements: we all now have a better insight into this fascinating planet.
The Mars that man now knows is very much different from what was then depicted when the best tool that could be used was a mere telescope. NASA’s 8 Mars rover missions have greatly expanded our knowledge pool with the data and photographs they have sent back. Here are 25 fascinating facts about the planet mars you need to know:
1. Mars is a two-faced planet.One of the most interesting facts about Mars is that its two sides look differently from each other. The northern hemisphere consists of low-lying plains that make it look young, while the southern part looks old with its high and rough terrain full of craters. Also, the crust in the southern portion is thicker than that in the north.
2. Mars is a terrestrial planet, just like Earth, Venus, and Mercury.Mars, being a terrestrial (Earth-like) planet, has a rocky surface and an iron core. Unlike the outer planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune that are made up of gaseous materials, terrestrial planets have solid surfaces. They have similar basic structure. All are composed of crust, mantle, and core but the depth in each layer may vary in each planet.
3. Snow in Mars can vaporize before it reaches the ground.If you could stand at the surface of Mars’ equator, you would feel like it is summertime at the bottom part of your body and wintertime at the top part!This is so because the temperature at the upper part of your body can be 0°Celsius, while that in at your feet can be 21 degrees Celsius. When it is snowing, the snow can vaporize before it reaches the ground. The place is a desert but a cold, cold one. In fact, it is much colder on Mars than here on Earth. The temperature ranges from -153°Celsius at the poles to 20°Celsius at the equator during the summer. Its temperature at the mid-latitudes goes from -60°Celsius at nighttime to 0° in the midday.
4. Mars looks reddish because its atmosphere carries rustic dusts.Mar’s surface contains minerals that are rich in iron. These minerals essentially oxidize or rust, which are then carried into the atmosphere making the planet appear red from afar.
5. The planet is marked with numerous impact craters.Mars has so many impact craters on its surface, the largest of which is the Borealis basin. This crater is so huge, it measures about 5,300 miles from end to end covering 40% of the face of Mars. Scientists believe that this could be the result of a gigantic impact that happened when the solar system is still being formed. If one needs to visualize the magnitude of the object that might have caused the crater to form, it must be larger than Pluto!
The two sides of the planet look differently from each other. The northern hemisphere consists of low-lying plains that look young while the southern part looks old with a high and rough terrain full of craters. Also, the crust in the southern portion is thicker than that in the north.
6. Mars’ pressure is so low it can cause your blood to bubble.If you don’t wear the appropriate spacesuit in Mars, you will die instantly. This is because Mars’ atmospheric pressure is very low–100 times less than that on Earth! A very low pressure can cause liquid water to boil intense. So once you step into the Martian atmosphere unprotected, your blood will bubble, since it is 83 percent water.
7. There is water in Mars.Missions on Mars focus on searching for evidences of extra-terrestrial life. The most basic part of this undertaking is tracing for liquid water that makes life as we know it here on Earth possible. It is now known that there is water on Mars but not in the same form as the one that fills up your glass. In fact, the Mars mission Phoenix had confirmed the presence of water ice near Mars’ North Pole.
8. Data show that Mars may have had rivers and oceans in the distant past.Scientists believe that liquid water must have flowed on Mars’ surface long time ago leaving its traces through minerals.
The most recent evidence of this comes from the rover Curiosity. In particular, the scientists manning this exploration reported on January 15, 2013 that the rover found various materials at Yellowknife Bay, Gale Crater’s lowest spot. Such materials, they noted, could only develop in the presence of water. This important finding adds up to the possibility that in the past, Mars was habitable by some life forms.
9. If you think a trekking tour on the stretch of Grand Canyon isn’t challenging enough, try Mars’ Valles Marineris!Mars’ Valles Marineris, the longest and deepest canyon in the entire Solar System, puts Grand Canyon to shame. It is 4,000 kilometers long– ten times longer than our very own. It is just about the length of the entire continental US! Also, if the Grand Canyon is 1.8 kilometers deep, Valles Marineris is nearly four times deeper!
10. Mars has a very thin atmosphere.You won’t be able to breathe the Martian air because it is very thin. Carbon dioxide makes up 95.3 percent of Martian atmosphere while Earth has only less than a percent. Moreover, the Earth’s atmosphere is made of 21 percent oxygen. Mars, in contrast, only has 0.13 percent oxygen. It also has far less nitrogen, water vapor, and pressure than what can be found on Earth. The present composition of the Earth’s atmosphere makes life possible.
11. It never rains on Mars.It never rains in this planet because it is very cold, and dry as a desert. This is also one reason why liquid water cannot exist. In fact, once you expose liquid water into the Martian surface, it turns either into ice or gas.
12. It snows carbon dioxide there!Another fun fact about Mars is that it snows there – only the snowflakes are made of carbon dioxide instead of water. Can you imagine that? The flakes are too tiny you would think it is fog. In fact, the snowflakes are just the size of your red blood cells.
13. Martian dust storms are the solar system’s largest.An episode of dust storm in Mars can cover the entire planet with dust, and this could last for months in Earth’s terms.
14. Want to lose weight? Go to Mars!
This is interesting, isn’t it? In the Martian surface, you can jump three times as high as you can here on Earth, unless if you wear a heavy spacesuit, of course. This is one of the coolest facts about Mars. Its surface gravity is roughly 37 percent less than Earth’s.
In other words, a plane from the Martian soil would need only 37 percent of the lift than what you need to leave the ground on Earth. If only it was a one-hour plane ride away, many obese people here on Earth would probably love to take a visit!
15. Surprisingly, no one knows who discovered Mars exactly.The discovery of Mars cannot be accounted to any individual, because historical accounts are not consistent. There are some indications that ancient Egyptians have discovered it in 1570 B.C., originally calling it planet Mars, after the god of war because of its blood-red color. However, the Polish astrologist Nicolaus Copernicus also got the credit. He may have been the first to look at Mars through the telescope. Furthermore, many believe Christian Huygens also deserve some credit for drawing Mars first, as he was the first to observe the dark-colored face of Mars.
16. Like Earth, Mars also has four seasons.
Both Mars and Earth are tilted into their axes. The tilt of the rotation axis of Mars, at 25.2°, is almost similar to that of the Earth, with 23.4°. Therefore, like Earth, Mars also has winter, spring, summer, and fall, only that each of the latter’s seasons lasts twice as long.
17. A day on Mars is roughly as long as a day here on Earth.
A solar day in Mars, called one sol, lasts 24 hours, 39 minutes, and 35 seconds, which is almost the same as that here on Earth. A year in the red planet, however, lasts almost twice the number of Earth days, 687 days. So if you are 25 years old and interested to know how old you would be in Mars, you would be approximately only 13 years old.
18. There are two moons in Mars.Mars has two moons – they are Phobos and Deimos, after the mythical sons of the Greek counterpart of Mars, Ares. The names were given by Asaph Hall, who in 1877 discovered these small moons. Phobos circles Mars 3 times a day while Deimos does every 30 hours. Phobos is said to be circling Mars inwards that in 50 million years, it will eventually crash into the planet or rupture. The two moons are like the Earth’s moon, always showing the same side to their planet.
19. The tallest volcano in Mars is about three times higher than Mount Everest!Mars’ volcano, also called Olympus Mons or Mount Olympus, is the tallest mountain in the entire solar system. It is 25 kilometers high above the plains that surround it. This volcano has nearly three times the height of Mt. Everest.
It is so large its base could cover the entire Arizona state. To compare further, Olympus Mons’ volume is 100 times larger than that of Earth’s largest, the Mauna Loa volcano in the Hawaiian state. This is such an irony in a planet half the size of Earth.
20. Any spacecraft or rover Earth sends to Mars never returns.A Martian rover from Earth never returns. When its mission ends, the rover remains on Mars permanently. After all, all the data it has gathered are transmitted back to Earth; hence, there is no need for it to return.
21. Earth has some pieces of Mars.Man is yet to deploy its Mars sample return mission. But Earth already has pieces of Mars even if no mission has ever returned a sample of any kind. How? Several meteorites discovered in Antarctica are said to have come from Mars because gases locked in these rocks match the composition of Mar’s atmosphere.
The most recent meteorite discovery is the “Designated Northwest Africa (NWA) 7034”, also known as the Black Beauty found from the Sahara Desert in 2011. Scientists found that the rock is 2.1 billion years old, much younger than any that have been discovered in the past. It is said to contain ten times the water content of any Martian sample. It contains significantly more oxygen, too.
22. No human being has ever been to Mars.All information that man knows about Mars is being gathered by orbiters and land rovers. Some meteorites that scientists had confirmed came from Mars are also helping immensely in the study. The latest mission on Mars is the robot rover Curiosity, launched in 2011.
However, just because man has not stepped foot on Mars yet doesn’t mean he won’t ever. There has been a lot of talk about sending a man into the Red Planet during this century and there is also talk of terraforming Mars (in the very distant future) as the human race grows beyond the capacity of Earth.
23. The US has launched a total of eight landing missions to Mars, seven of which have been successful.
No other country has been as successful as the US in sending landing missions to Mars. The missions that have successfully landed are Viking 1 (1976), Viking 2 (1976), Mars Sojourner (1997), Mars Exploration Rover – Spirit (2004), Mars Exploration Rover – Opportunity (2004), Phoenix Mars Lander (2008), and MSL Curiosity (2012). Before the successful landing of US’ Viking 1 and 2 in Mars in 1976, four such missions have tried and failed. These are Sputnik 24, Mars 2, Mars 3, and Mars 6, all by the USSR. To date, there are seven other landing missions which have failed.
24. Mars missions cost a lot of money.
While this fact might not be surprising to you, the figures might. The US’ Viking missions alone were worth $1 billion in 1970s price level. Opportunity and Spirit rovers cost roughly $1 billion; while the Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity’s budget is an astonishing $2.5 billion, the priciest ever.
25. You have to travel for more than a year to reach Mars and come back to Earth.If you are planning to do an expedition for a year, that is 365 Earth days, in Mars, you might need a staple that covers for over two years. That is because, it will take you roughly eight months to go there and another eight to come back home to Earth.
More interestingly, traveling the minimum distance between Earth and Mars at 56 million kilometers by car in its average driving speed would take you about a lifetime or 66.5 years. This sure would be one heck of a vacation, especially those who want to take a real break!