Mars: The Ultimate Guide

The red planet Mars has been known to humans since ancient times. It has been the target of dozens of space missions and will hopefully soon become the first planet astronauts will land on. In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about Mars and answer the most common questions related to the Red Planet. Let’s get started!

Mars Facts

  • Radius: 3,396 km
  • Mass: 6.417 × 10²³ kg
  • Aphelion: 249.2 million km
  • Perihelion: 206.6 million km
  • Average distance from the Earth: 225 million km
  • Surface temperature: −143 °C to 35 °C
  • Solar day length: 24 h 39 m 35 s
  • Sidereal day length: 24 h 37 m 22 s
  • Year length: 686.98 Earth days
  • Age: 4.503 billion years
  • Named after: Roman god of war

How big is Mars?

Mars’ size

Is Mars bigger than the Earth?

Mars’ orbit and rotation

How long is a year on Mars?

How long is a day on Mars?

Does Mars have seasons?

How far away is Mars?

How far is Mars from the Sun?

How far is Mars from the Earth?

How long does it take to get to Mars?

The two fastest trips to Mars were taken by Mariner 6 (five months) and Mariner 7 (four months). However, these two spacecraft performed flybys of Mars and so didn’t need to slow down as orbiters, landers, and rovers do. The latest rover to land on Mars, Perseverance, reached the planet in about seven months.

Missions to Mars

NASA’s Mariner 9 entered Mars’ orbit in 1971, becoming the first spacecraft to orbit another planet. Mariner 9 mapped 85% of the Martian surface and sent more than 7,000 images back to the Earth.

The first human-made object to reach the Martian surface was the Soviet Union’s Mars 2, launched the same year as Mariner 9. Unfortunately, the speed at which Mars 2 approached the planet was too high; as a result, the descent system malfunctioned, and the spacecraft crashed into the Red Planet’s surface.

The first spacecraft to successfully land on Mars was NASA’s Viking 1. This spacecraft operated on the planet from 1976 to 1982 and sent back more than 57,000 images.

NASA’s Sojourner, which arrived on Mars in 1997 as part of the Pathfinder mission, became the first rover to operate on another planet. The Sojourner rover operated for 83 sols, making scientific measurements and taking pictures.

NASA’s twin rovers Spirit and Opportunity reached the Red Planet in 2004. The rovers were tasked with studying the planet’s climatic history and looking for evidence of past water activity. Originally, the mission was planned to last 90 days. However, both rovers exceeded their planned mission lifetimes by many years: Spirit operated until 2010, and Opportunity stopped working only in 2018.

In 2012, NASA’s rover Curiosity arrived at the Gale crater on Mars. The rover investigated the Martian climate and geology and found out that the planet once had conditions favorable for microbial life. Curiosity has been active on Mars for more than three thousand sols; as of 2021, the rover is still operational.

In 2021, China successfully landed its first spacecraft on Mars as part of the Tianwen-1 mission. The rover named Zhurong became the first spacecraft not launched by NASA to operate on Mars.

Also in 2021, NASA’s Perseverance rover landed on the Red Planet. Apart from the rover, a helicopter called Ingenuity also takes part in the mission. On April 19, 2021, Ingenuity performed the first-ever powered, controlled flight on another planet.

What is Mars made of?

Formation of Mars

Mars’ structure

Mars’ surface

The Red Planet has many surface features similar to our planet: valleys, deserts, mountains, and polar ice caps. There are even former river deltas that suggest that Mars was a watery planet in the past.

Mars’ atmosphere

However, in April 2021, NASA’s rover Perseverance successfully converted a small portion of the Martian atmosphere into oxygen. In the future, this technology might be able to provide astronauts with breathable air.

Does Mars have a moon?

Upcoming Events

October 7: Mars at solar conjunction

December 2: Conjunction of the Moon and Mars

December 31: Lunar occultation of Mars

F.A.Q.

What is the gravity on Mars?

What color is Mars?

What is the temperature on Mars?

How many rovers are on Mars?

Did you know?

  • Mars’ larger moon, Phobos, gradually gets closer to the planet at a rate of about 2 cm per year. In 50 million years, Phobos will either crash into Mars or disintegrate to form a ring around the Red Planet.
  • Billions of years ago, Mars looked very similar to the Earth. Large portions of the planet’s surface were covered with liquid water, and there may have been primitive life forms in the oceans. However, eventually, the Red Planet lost most of its atmosphere and dried up.
  • During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many astronomers observed a network of canals on the Martian surface. Some believed them to be irrigation canals constructed by an alien civilization. However, it turned out to be an optical illusion.

We hope that you’ve discovered something new about the Red planet. Don’t hesitate to share this article on social media if you liked it. Also, you’re welcome to watch our educational cartoon with fun facts about Mars. We wish you clear skies and happy observations!

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