Universe Guide

Mars Info, Facts and Moons

Mars is our second closest neighbouring planet, the closest is Venus, the cloudy hot planet. As Mars is less inhospitable than Venus and is relatively near, scientists have sent more probes to the planet and landed 4 rovers on the planet including Curiosity, Spirit, Opportunity and Sojourner. Even though the successes spring to mind, there have been a number of failures such as Beagle 2, the British made probe which was lost on Christmas Day 2003.

We cannot as yet live on Mars, the temperature is too cold, there's not a breathable atmosphere. We could one day build a settlement to provide for our needs. Mars only has 38% of Earth's gravity so living on the planet would make us weak. We could terraform the planet but the technology and expense is not something that is readily available. It currently takes about 6 - 9 months to get from Earth to Mars. The rocket that took the Curiosity rover to Mars took 8.3 months.

If you were to move to Mars, you would only be able to get to and from the planet when the planets are on the same side of the Sun. If Mars was on the wrong side of the Sun, it would take much longer to get to the planet and more dangerous.

Mars has been known about since at least 4,000 B.C. when the ancient Babylonians first noticed it. It was discovered when a star was moving across the night sky, a wanderer from which the planet gets it name.

Mars is not bigger than the Earth, in fact, the Earth is about roughly twice the size of Mars.

Life on Mars and Martians

Artists impression of what Mars might have looked like once with an ocean covering the southern half of the planet.

People have always been fascinated with the Red planet. Its smaller than ours and for many years, we've written stories of there being Martians on the planet from War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells through to Tim Burton's Mars Attacks. Granted, Tim didn't create the story, he made it into a film.

There have been many missions to Mars from N.A.S.A. and other agencies in the hope of answering whether there is life on Mars. If there is life on Mars, it will be microbial at best, there is nothing on the surface. If there was, we'd have discovered it by now. Just because there's nothing there now, we can't discount the fact that life could have existed once on the planet when the Magnetic Core was still working like it is on our planet.

It had been theorised that Mars once had water flowing over it and could have even had life on the planet during that time. However something happened and the waters receded back to the ice caps. The following is an artists impression that was released to show what Mars could have looked like once.

Moons of Mars

Mars has two moons, named Deimos and Phobos. They are irregular shaped unlike our Moon which is spherical and more like asteroids. It is speculated that they are asteroids from the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter that flew too close to the planet and were captured by its gravity. They are named after children of Grecian god Ares. Ares is the Grecian equivalent of the Roman God Mars. Phobos means panic/fear whilst Deimos means terror/dread.

The latest research seems to have debunked the asteroid theory. According to a report in Daily Mail, the moons may have been created by an asteroid smashing into Mars and the moons being created in the aftermath.

Canals on Mars

In 1877, Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli, director of the Brera Observatory in Milan described seeing Canali on the surface of Mars. These were incorrectly translated to mean canals when the correct translation meant channels. The fact that the Suez Channel in Egypt had just been built put added weight onto the fact that they were canals. Canals are man-made streams of water which implied that there was intelligent life on Mars which as we know now there isn't.

Canals on Mars were popularised by respected American astronomer Percival Lowell who had dedicated his life to studying Mars. Percival called them alien made and used as irrigation channels. Percival built the Lowell Observatory which would fourteen years after his death discover the now ex-planet of Pluto.Ref: N.A.S.A. Canals of Mars

Missions to Mars

As of 11th March 2017, we've sent 44 probes to Mars and not all have been successful. 26 have been failures, I've counted success/failure as a failure. The first attempt was by the Russians where their probe was to fly by the planet however the craft didn't reach Earths orbit in 1960. The first successful mission to Mars was mission number 7 by the Americans with Mariner 4 probe which sent back 21 images in 1964. The first successful Russian mission to Mars was in 1971, eleven years after their first attempt and their eleventh attempt. Ref: List of Mars Missions

The American's weren't without failure, their first mission to Mars was a failure but it was their second mission in the same year that the Americans got to the red planet. Since 2001, all American probes have reached the planet including two rovers Spirit and Opportunity and both rovers operating way longer than planned. The first non-U.S/Russian attempt was by Japan in 1998 and that sadly was a failure caused by fuel problems.

The Europeans' first attempt came in 2003 with Mars Orbiter/Beagle 2. The Mars Orbital arrived in position but lost contact with Beagle 2 as it parachuted down to the planet. The exact cause of the failure has not yet been established but the current theory is that Beagle did make it down to the planet and all but one of its solar panels opened up. Ref: Daily Mail

Race to Mars

The new Space Race is to put a man on the red planet and return him safely. At the moment, the only place people are going is back to the moon as a staging post. The task is mammoth to say the least, the fastest time so far a probe has got to Mars is the new horizons mission to pluto and that took around 40 days. ref: Planets for Kids. However with that, you didn't need food or water for craft so that would have to be factored in if we are going to go Mars because that would affect the speed we'd be travelling at.

All the major space faring nations, United States of America, Russia and China to mention just three all have plans to get to Red planet and colonize. The first step for America though is to have a permanent moonbase from where you can more easily launch craft to outer space because it has a lower gravity. One day, you won't be taking a holiday to Spain, you'll be taking a holiday on the Red Planet.

Why is Mars red?

The quick and straight forward answer as to why the planet is red is because of the amount of Iron Oxide on the planets surface. The Iron Oxide gives the planet its colour. The red led many of the first astronomers to associate it with Mars, the Roman God of War. The red is for the colour of blood that is splashed when someone is hit. How the planet got so much Iron Oxide is unknown. Ref: Space

It is theorized it wasn't always red and that is might have been like our planet, Earth with green lands and water. It might even have had life on the planet before the planet lost its magnetic core to protect it and it grew cold and inhospitable.

Mars Facts

List of Moons in orbit around Mars

MoonDiscoveredOrbit Circumference

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