15 Fun Facts About Mars
The second closest planet to Earth after Venus, Mars has long been known about by people, and occupied a place in the human imagination and culture for centuries.
Often referred to as the "Red Planet", it is generally perceived as the next destination for a manned space flight.
Below are 15 facts about Mars.
1. Mars is named after the Roman god of war, who was seen as fearsome and strong.
"Studying whether there's life on Mars or studying how the universe began, there's something magical about pushing back the frontiers of knowledge. That's something that is almost part of being human, and I'm certain that will continue."— Sally Ride
2. The first person to see the planet through a telescope was Galileo Galilei in 1609.
3. Although the planet is now mainly dry desert and rock, scientists believe that it once had rivers, lakes, and an ocean.
"I think humans will reach Mars, and I would like to see it happen in my lifetime."— Buzz Aldrin
4. For over a hundred years, people have wondered whether there was life on Mars and what it might be like. There have been many books and films about the creatures that might live on the planet, who are known as: "Martians". Modern scientists believe that if there is life on Mars, however, it is likely to be very tiny (microscopic).
5. Mars is known as the "Red Planet", because of its color. The redness is caused by iron oxide, which is essentially the same thing as rust on Earth.
"Going to Mars would evolve humankind into a two-planet species."— Buzz Aldrin
6. Mars is the fourth farthest planet from the Sun (the Earth is the third).
7. Mars has some of the biggest canyons in the Solar System - most of them far bigger than the Grand Canyon in the USA. The longest Martian canyon, Valles Marineris, would go from Los Angeles all the way to New York, were it on Earth.
"If you think the ocean isn't important, imagine Earth without it. Mars comes to mind. No ocean, no life support system."— Sylvia Earle
8. Mars has two moons (Phobos and Deimos), which travel around the planet in the opposite direction to the way that most of the other moons in the Solar System move.
9. The biggest volcano in the Solar System is on Mars. It is called Olympus Mons and is three times the size of Everest, the biggest mountain on Earth.
"I think space exploration is very important. I think there is very intelligent life on Mars. I believe that Martians are spying on us from the bottom of the ocean."— Annabella Sciorra
10. The third month of the year, March, gets its name from the planet.
11. The first spacecraft to pass over the planet was Mariner 4 in 1965. Mars presently hosts five spacecraft. The Mars Odyssey, Mars Express, and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter are in orbit around the planet. The Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity and the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity are on the surface. No human being has ever walked on Mars.
12. In 1877 Giovanni Schiaparelli first described what he believed to be "canals" on the surface of the planet. This encouraged the idea that there was intelligent life on Mars at the time. The canals were later found out to be optical illusions, however.
13. A Martian day is slightly longer than ours and lasts 24 hours, 39 minutes and 35 seconds in Earth time.
"You need to live in a dome initially, but over time you could terraform Mars to look like Earth and eventually walk around outside without anything on... So it's a fixer-upper of a planet."— Elon Musk
14. A Martian year is 687 Earth days long!
15. The weather on Mars is nearly always sunny, but extremely cold - and because the planet is almost completely dry, there is never any rain!
Mars in Popular Culture
Out of all the planets in the Solar System, aside from Earth, Mars has captured the human imagination more than any other, certainly since the 19th Century.
There have been numerous books written and movies made that involve the planet, mainly because for many years it was considered the planet to most likely have intelligent life on it.
Martians were quite often portrayed as warlike aliens who wished to invade the Earth, as in the H. G. Wells science fiction novel: The War of the Worlds
After trips to Mars by the Mariner and Viking spacecraft missions, however, which showed Mars as a rocky, barren place, stories shifted focus from aliens and tended to more on the idea of humans having a colony on the planet, as in the movie: Total Recall.
Facts About Our Solar System
- The Solar System formed more than 4.5 billion years ago.
- There are billions of other systems in our galaxy, The Milky Way.
- The Solar System consists of 5 main regions. The rocky terrestrial planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars) make up the innermost region. The Asteroid Belt sits between the Mars and Jupiter. Next come the outer gas giants: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. Beyond Neptune lies The Kuiper Belt, a ring of asteroids and comets. The Oort Cloud, a spherical shell that is made up of dormant comets forms the outermost region.
The purpose of going to Mars is for humans to first begin to occupy, permanently, another planet in the solar system. The astronauts or pilgrims, whatever you might call them, are going to be very historically unique human beings.— Buzz Aldrin
- Lodders, Katharina; Fegley, Bruce (1998). The planetary scientist's companion. Oxford University Press US. ISBN 0-19-511694-1
- Carr, Michael H. (2006). The surface of Mars. Cambridge planetary science series. 6. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-87201-4
- Hannsson, Anders (1997). Mars and the Development of Life. Wiley. ISBN 0-471-96606-1.
© 2012 Paul Goodman