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Mars - The Red Planet

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Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun. It is sometimes called the 'Red Planet' because of its red soil. The soil on Mars is red because it contains iron oxide (rust).

Mars is one of the brightest objects in the night sky. It has been known since ancient times. The planet is named for the Roman God of War. It has two moons, Phobos (fear) and Deimos (panic). The moons get their scary names from the horses that pulled the chariot of the Greek god Ares.

Mars is a little like Earth, only smaller, drier and colder. There are places on Earth that are a little like Mars - Death Valley, Calif., Antarctica and volcanoes in Hawaii. Both planets have polar ice caps, volcanoes, canyons and four seasons (the seasons on Mars are twice as long). Compare Mars with Earth and other planets.

The thin air on Mars makes it a dangerous place for humans. It is mostly poisonous carbon dioxide. You would need a spacesuit to visit Mars. Recently, scientists found lots of frozen water (scientists say water ice) just under the surface of Mars. This means astronauts who may visit Mars in the future will have plenty of water - enough to fill Lake Michigan twice.

Mars is a rocky planet. It is dusty and dry. The sky would be hazy and red instead of blue. Sometimes giant dust storms cover the whole planet.

Meet Dr. Joy Crisp: Mars Rock Star
Meet Dr. Joy Crisp: Mars Rock Star
Exploring Mars would be hard. But there are lots of things to see and learn. Olympus Mons may be the largest volcano in our solar system. It is three times taller than Mt. Everest (the tallest mountain on Earth) and as big as the state of New Mexico. Valles Marineris is a grand canyon almost as long as the United States of America is wide. There are also lots of interesting meteor craters and rocks.

On Mars, you would see two moons in the sky. They may be asteroids captured by Mars' gravity. Phobos is slowly moving towards Mars. It will crash into Mars or break apartin about 50 million years.

Challenge Graphic
MARS CHALLENGE Pretend you are a Martian travel agent. What would tourists need to bring to visit Mars? How would you describe the weather? What are the most exciting places to vist? Do a little research and make a travel brochure to share with your family and class.

Missions to Mars
Featured Mission:
In 2003, NASA is sending two robot geologists - Spirit and Opportunity - to Mars. They will look for water and study rocks.
More Missions to Mars
Past Missions
Present Missions
Go Figure!
Number of days it takes for Mars to orbit the sun. A Martian year.
Length (in miles) of Valles Marineris, the 'Grand Canyon of Mars.' That's 4,000 km.
Years it would take to travel the minimum distance between Earth and Mars at 60 mph. It takes only five minutes at the speed of light.
Average temperature on Mars. That's a chilly -62°C.
Number of years until Mars' moon Phobos crashes into the planet or is torn apart into smaller chunks.
Number of days Mars Pathfinder sent back signals from Mars - nearly triple its expected lifespan.
Average distance from Mars to the sun. That's 228 million km.
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Last Updated: 30 Aug 2014