Everything you need to know about Mars, our neighboring red planet
In 2020, NASA sent the latest Mars probe Perseverance into space and in the same year Russia and China also launched missions to Mars. For decades, our red neighbor planet has attracted the attention of astronomers and other scientists. One of the biggest questions we’re trying to solve: Is life possible on Mars? Will we be able to travel to Mars in the future?
Elon Musk thinks so, and NASA also hopes to achieve a manned mission within twenty years. But what will the first humans find on Mars? We have listed the most important facts about Mars for you. What do we already know and what are the mysteries of Mars that we haven’t discovered yet?
Mars is our smaller neighbor
As seen from the sun, Mars is the fourth planet in the solar system. Mars orbits the Sun between Jupiter and Earth, making it our closest planet. This makes space missions to Mars much easier than sending to Jupiter, for example, which orbits in the outer rings of the solar system.
How far is neighboring Mars from us? There is no easy answer to that yet. Since Earth and Mars revolve around the Sun at their own pace, the distance between Earth and Mars varies each day. In 2022, Mars will pass relatively close to Earth. The distance between us and the Red Planet was “only” 81.5 million kilometers.
Let’s say astronauts launch a mission to Mars in a few years or Elon Musk succeeds in taking a spaceflight to Mars in the air, how long would that trip to the neighboring red planet take? NASA says the ticket to Mars should take about eight or nine months. By comparison, the trip to the moon for the first moon landing took just four days.
What is the difference between Earth and Mars?
In some ways, Mars is just like Earth. You’ll also find mountains, valleys, and volcanoes on Mars. They are a little more extreme than we are used to. For example, look at Olympus Mons, the largest volcano on the planet. The height of this volcano is 25 kilometers. Mount Everest, no small mountain, fits in it three times. And this is while Mars itself is not gigantic at all.
Mars has a diameter of 6,794 kilometers, which is about half the diameter of Earth. In addition, it is much colder on planet Earth than with us. Your trusty winter coat can’t handle the average Martian surface temperature of -63°C. The planet is farther from the Sun than Earth and the atmosphere is much thinner, so less heat is retained.
Similarities between Earth and Mars
Besides the presence of mountains, there are a number of similarities between Mars and our planet. Mars, like Earth, revolves around the Sun in a slightly inclined position. As a result, the planet has the same seasons as we do. It takes a lot longer than you’re used to on Earth, also because years on Mars are longer. Mars takes 687 Earth days to revolve around the sun. A day on Mars is like a day on Earth. On the Red Planet you get an extra half hour every day: Mars rotates on its axis in 24.5 hours.
Is life possible on Mars?
The fact that Mars has seasons and days of the same length does not mean that life is possible on the planet. But in the search for planets suitable for alien life, Mars is an important candidate. Signs of life on Mars are baffling, but they do exist.
NASA’s Curiosity rover encountered a jumble of carbon atoms on Mars, an important building block for life on Earth. In addition, the rover also detected peaks in methane levels in the Martian atmosphere. On Earth, this gas is mainly produced by biological processes. Water is also present on Mars. Only now in the form of frozen polar caps, but billions of years ago liquid water flowed through rivers and lakes.
When the first humans set foot on Mars, the question remains until now. Ambitions are there, but no date has been set yet. In preparation for future space missions, training is already underway on Mars. Simulations like HI-SEAS in Hawaii simulate conditions expected on the planet. Participants in the Mars Simulation get a little taste of what the first humans on Mars will ever experience.
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