Mars has fascinated humans for thousands of years. Scientists have studied a few things about Mars but it’s the spacecraft missions that have taught us the most.
Between the flybys and the Mars Rovers, we had learned an incredible amount about the red planet.It’s believed that Mars had water in its ancient past.
The Mars Rovers have taken an incredible number of pictures of the surface and many areas show signs that water coursed through and left channels and grooves.
In addition, some areas of Mars have shown more recent changes so that if there is water beneath the surface it may be rising up under special circumstances.
Having liquid water is one of the criteria to support life.
Mars has been one of the most important planets to research to find water and one of Curiosity rover’s focus was to search for any environment that might be inhabitable, either present or past.
Mars does have a very thin atmosphere but it doesn’t let water remain or flow across the surface in large quantities.
We do know that the ice poles of Mars have frozen water but it’s unsure if the melting pole water could support any microbes.
At one time, Mars’ atmosphere was thicker. Currently, the Red Planet has a thin atmosphere and scientists wonder what happened for it to lose so much of its atmosphere.
One theory is that the energy from the sun stripped the hydrogen from the upper layers and scattered them into space.
NASA launched the MAVEN spacecraft (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN) for the purpose of investigating the atmosphere of Mars.
Mars terrain is very contrasting. Mars has both lows and highs in its terrain. With a surface gravity that is 37% of what we have on Earth, Mars can build volcanoes that are really tall without them collapsing.
Olympus Mons is an example of this and it is the tallest volcano known in our solar system. It’s 16 mi/25 km high, with a diameter the same size as the U.S. state of Arizona.
However, Mars also has some of the widest and deepest canyons such as Valles Marineris, which is named after the Mariner 9 spacecraft that found it. The canyon has some parts that are 4 mi/7km deep.
NASA reports that the valley is as around 20% of the diameter of Mars and is as wide as the U.S.
Mars may have two moons, but in the future there may only be one. The two moons of Mars are Deimos and Phobos and they are made up of the same materials that make up asteroids in the solar system.
Scientists think that they may have been asteroids that were trapped in the Mars gravity and forced to become moons.
It’s believed that in 30-50 million years Phobos is going to crash into the surface of Mars or be ripped apart due to tidal forces of the planet.
We have chunks of Mars on Earth. Mars has a low gravity and in the past when it’s been hit by asteroids the debris flows up and then fall back again.
However sometimes, the pieces head out into space and then they head out.
Some have fallen on Earth and the technical name for these Mars meteorites is called SNC (Shergottites, Nakhlites, Chassignites; based on geological composition) When these meteorites were studied they found the gases inside were almost identical to those brought back from Mars.
Mars is not friendly to humans. The fact that Mars has a temperature that averages around -50 degrees F/-45 degrees C with no air to breathe and no astronaut could take off their helmet and survive.
The air pressure on Mars in only an average of 1% of Earth’s surface and what little atmosphere Mars does have is made up of 95% carbon dioxide, 3% nitrogen, 1.6% argon and some other elements.
Even if we could breathe it, it would kill us.Early on, people thought Mars was like our moon.
In the early years of the space age, many did flybys of Mars, taking pictures. At that time, scientists compared the images and thought that they looked a lot like our moon.
There were craters and valleys that stayed the same. It wasn’t until the Mariner 9 mission in 1971 that more in-depth data about Mars was gathered.
The reports included massive dust storms, and dormant volcanoes.
- Does Mars have an atmosphere?
yes, very thin
- What is another name for Mars?
the Red Planet
- Name two geological features on Mars.
canyons, craters, dormant volcanoes
- What space mission changed our opinion about Mars being like our moon?
- What are the names of Mars’ two moons?
Deimos and Phobos
- What do scientists think Mars has that could be a basis to support life?